Monday, May 31, 2010

Back in the Mode Video Blog

In an attempt to keep things interesting here, I'd thought I'd try a video blog today. We filmed this yesterday at the Silver Diner, where Jerry and I were having a healthy Treat Meal. He had steak, I had an egg white omelet. It was the last Treat meal I'll get for awhile, as I'm officially back in contest prep mode. Six weeks until Team U!! Let another journey to the stage begin!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Temptations ... and Cheetos

As much as I'd like to hold myself up as a role model, and as much as I'd like to be perfect in everything I do (yes, I'm a perfectionist), I know those aren't reasonable nor realistic expectations of myself. I always want to be self-sufficient and independent. I don't want to need others for help or support, because I don't want to feel or be perceived as weak. But is needing others really a bad thing? Does it mean I'm weak? I'm usually the girl who silently scoffs when someone tells me to resist a tempting food. Why do I scoff? Because I don't need to be reminded to "stay strong" or "stay away from those cookies!"; there's no way in hell I'm going to touch anything not on my diet! But today, I needed that reminder ...

I'm back on my diet this week ... and have found myself struggling. No, I haven't eaten any cookies, but I've definitely been overdoing it on protein bars. My sugar cravings are intense, and I'm having a tough time staying focused on my goal. I know what my goal is (win my pro card at Team U in 6 weeks), I know what I need to do (stick to my diet), but for some reason, I'm still struggling.

Last night, I was battling some strong cravings. At one point, I actually opened the cupboard door and reached in for a Girl Scout cookie. Before I reached the box, though, I pulled my hand back, shut the door, and went to brush my teeth, thus ensuring I wouldn't eat anything more.

 My favorite Girl Scout cookie: Samoas

I was really surprised by my behavior, because when I diet, I'm 100% ON. Sure, I battle temptations, but the temptations are only thoughts in my head. I never even consider eating something not on my diet; I don't even make it an option. Sure, I stare at pictures of cakes, drool all over the cookies at the grocery store, and actually stick my head into the donut cabinet to inhale their sugary sweetness. But not once do I consider actually eating any of those foods until after my show. Remember? I don't need reminders to stay away from cookies.

So why would I consciously reach for a cookie when I'm following my diet??

I didn't even want to admit to Jerry what I'd almost done ... but I have this compelling force to be open about everything with him. I was embarrassed and felt weak when I told him. Thank goodness he doesn't judge me; he just helps me remain focused.

And I needed his support again today. For some reason, I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I almost didn't have the mental strength to resist some crazy wild junk food cravings this afternoon.

As I sat at my desk, thoughts of junk food kept running through my head like a cross-country meet. They got so bad, I actually walked over to the candy machine and picked out something to buy (if you must know, it was Cheetos ... cuz they came in the biggest bag). I purposely didn't bring any money with me; I just wanted to check out the options.

And then I realized that I needed help and support. Like immediately. So I called Jerry, and he immediately offered to come by my office with sugar-free jell-o, in hopes that it would kill the sugar craving. After I thought about it a moment, I realized how ridiculous I was being. Srsly, what kind of future Figure pro can't control her cravings to the point where she has to have her boyfriend bring her sugar-free jell-o in the middle of the day?!
My sweet tooth fix

Today I feel weak. I feel like I'm just barely hanging on by a thread. I feel like if I were offered cake today, that I'd actually take a bite. It's at this point that I have to admit that I DO need others around me for support. Yes, I'm the one who's making the choice to diet, and I alone am responsible for my choices ... but a support team is so necessary to me at this point.

Would I actually have eaten the bag of Cheetos had I not called Jerry? I honestly don't know. I was thisclose to buying them. Why were these thoughts going through my head? Am I subconsciously self-sabotaging my chances at a pro card? I only have 6 short weeks to whip my water-bloated body into pro shape. Cheetos should be the furthest thing from my mind ... yet I can't seem to completely keep my focus lately. It's most likely a combination of a slight case of post-contest depression and out-of-whack female hormones ... a very bad, potentially destructive combination.

I need to keep telling myself that it's NOT weak to need others. That I CAN get through this. And I need to keep reminding myself that I CAN win a pro card ... and most importantly, that I deserve to win it. I need to believe in myself, in my potential, and in my strength to succeed.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lessons Learned from Online Communities

The world is increasingly becoming smaller and more online-based. It's so much easier these days to keep in touch with family and friends, to make new online friends, and to meet people with similar interests and goals. Since I started competing five years ago, I've found myself turning toward online communities more and more, because initially, I didn't have the in-person support that I needed. Over the years, I've made some great friends through forums, and have also met some of my least favorite people online.

One on of the forums I belong to, the question was posted, "What have you learned from [insert forum name]"? Interesting question ... one I've been thinking about all day. As I tried to narrow down things I've learned from that particular forum, I started thinking about all the other online places I frequent, and what I've learned from those sites as well. Some things are positive, some things are negative. Let's start with the positive things first ...

Positive things I've learned from forums and online communities
  • There are other people like me. This may seem sort of obvious, but it's refreshing to know that there are others out there facing similar issues, and having similar feelings and thoughts. When I first started competing, only one other friend actually understood what I was going through. When I joined my first forum, suddenly, I had a network of thousands of others who understood me and were dealing with the same things.
  • It's ok to disagree about an issue; people won't stop liking me. At first, I was afraid to disagree with someone because I was worried about what people would think of me. Ok, this one is still more of a work in progress, as I'm still rather reluctant to disagree, but I'm working on it! Jerry has helped me overcome this hurdle, as he has no problems disagreeing with anyone! And I've learned that it's inevitable that some people won't like me, and that's ok too.
  • More people pay attention to my words than I originally thought. I can't tell you how many times I've been surprised when someone asks me a question or makes a comment regarding something I wrote online. I had no idea people actually read what I write! (I used to be a Technical Writer ... you know, the person who wrote the manual you immediately throw away after purchasing software. Hence, the very justified belief that no one reads what I write.)
  • There are some really good people in this world. People whom I've never met face-to-face have provided some of the most needed support for me in tough times. And I've made some really good friends online, some of whom I've had the opportunity to meet in person. I love going to shows and meeting my online friends face-to-face! Heck, without one forum, Jerry and I never would've met! (See also: It's a Love Story)
Moving on to the negative (or the more euphemistic "not-so-positive") things I've learned from forums and online communities.
  • There are always going to be haters. You know - that one person who finds every opportunity to be a pain in the butt, a know-it-all, a basher, or your loudest critic. I'm still working on building up a thicker skin and not taking every comment to heart. There are certain boards I avoid either because of their reputation for unnecessary bashing, because of a negative experience I had, or because of one or more persons who always seems to turn something positive and fun into an opportunity for a lecture, sarcasm, or cruel comments.
  • People lie. Yeah, this one may be very obvious, but for this [sometimes naive] midwestern girl, it never ceases to surprise me. Because I make it a point to never lie (got caught trying to lie when I was young, and decided it wasn't worth it, plus I sucked at it), I have a hard time understanding why people feel the need to lie. Srsly, what's the point?? Being a faceless entity behind a lethal keyboard gives people a false sense of confidence, and the opportunity to be whomever they've always wanted to be. If I believed everything I've been told online, I'd be friends with very famous, very beautiful people. All the men would be 6'1", 230 lbs ripped at 3% bf, and all the women would always remain within 5 lbs of their contest weight. Oh yeah, and everyone would be competing natural.
  • It's easier for an online community to suddenly take on a "gang" mentality than it is in person. I've seen this happen on so many different forums and threads. Just one negative comment leads to a whole bunch of others jumping on the bashing bandwagon. Dissenters remain quiet, except for a couple brave souls who either get ignored or in turn bashed for trying to offer support.
All in all, the things I've learned have helped make me a better person, and have opened doors that would've otherwise been closed, or unknown. I now have so many great connections in the fitness community, I'm up-to-date on my former classmates' lives, I have an easy time keeping in touch with my family, and I've made some wonderful friends! There will always be negatives that go hand-in-hand with positives, so it's important to recognize them, and not let them affect you too much (again, something I'm still working on). Well, it's time to go surf some boards and see what's going on in the online world!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back Into the Swing of Things

The show is over ... the fun of eating off my diet last week is over ... the Jan Tana is flaking off my skin (unevenly, I might add - I look like I'm molting) ... it's time to get back into the swing of things.

After a weekend of gorging ourselves (something we're really good at, incidentally), I hopped back on the Diet Train yesterday, and am already starting to drop some of the crazy amounts of water weight my body retained from the weekend food debauchery. I seem to have some issues restraining myself when I'm allowed some treats. Jerry and I talked about it at length, and are still trying to come up with a plan to help me control myself around treat foods. I'm totally fine when I'm following my diet, but the second I break it for a scheduled treat, I completely fall of the wagon and can't seem to crawl back on again until the next day. Completely mental, not physical issue, as my body doesn't NEED the foods I shove into it. But that's a whole other issue for a different day.

So anyway, I'm back on my diet and am feeling better. I still have some carbs in my system from Sunday, so I'm prepared to feel like crap tomorrow when they're all gone and my body is searching for them. I stayed away from the scale yesterday because I didn't want to cry. I may venture on it today, but then again, I might not.

Yesterday I also went back to lifting heavy. I haven't trained heavy for quite a few weeks, so it was kinda fun to be moving some serious weight again! I have a couple weeks to train heavy before we lighten things up again to get ready for Team Universe in July. As of this past Saturday, I'm 7 weeks out. Woohoo!! But I digress.

I felt weak doing squats yesterday. I was frustrated, because it feels like I've lost some muscle in my quads. We moved to leg press next ... and I killed it on leg press! Got a personal best! SIX plates on either side, which translates to roughly 600 lbs. Go Team Kari! :) So now I need to put the disclaimer in there that the seat was raised to the highest incline, which forced me to press using mostly hamstrings and glutes. Jerry the Exaggerator says that it doesn't matter what the seat incline is - I was still doing a full range of motion. But I disagree, because to me, a full range of motion is having the seat lying as flat as possible and bringing knees to the chest. Yes, I brought my knees to my chest with the inclined seat, but it's a much shorter range of motion. Regardless, I pressed a lot of weight, and was excited about it!

My legs felt ok this morning, but are starting to stiffen up as the day goes on. Pretty sure I won't be able to walk tomorrow.

I'd forgotten how good it felt to be strong. I've been so focused on being lean lately (which translates into weaker for me), so it was really nice to feel strong again. I'm still stressing about the fact that my abs are hibernating, but I just have to remind myself to be patient; they will appear soon enough.

That's it for now ... I'm back and track and ready to build some muscle!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Looking Healthy vs Being Healthy

I read a blog the other day that discussed the gap between BEING healthy and LOOKING healthy. These two things are NOT the same, yet so many people confuse them and link them together.

So let me set the record straight. When fitness, figure, and bodybuilding competitors are standing on stage, they're very unhealthy at that point. They're at an unnaturally lean body composition, they're starving, and they're dehydrated. And yes, many are pumped full of illegal (in the U.S.) substances.

Sure, their muscles are bulging and their skin looks tan, both of which are considered "healthy" things. But the reasons their muscles are bulging is not because they're "healthy"; it's because they starved themselves to an unhealthy lean body mass, depleted their bodies of essential nutrients, and dehydrated themselves either through natural (sodium, water) manipulation or unnatural (prescription diuretics) means. Their skin is tan because they're wearing paint the color of a dark tan. Yes - it's just paint. Applied with either an actual foam paint brush or a soft car wax-type applicator. The paint either stains the skin like a dye, or soaks in like a protective coating, clogging the pores and sweat glands, and staining clothes. Still think these competitors are "healthy"?

My tan of choice: Jan Tana

Now let's talk about how they feel while preparing for a show.

Contest prep can be very stressful and exhausting. It requires 100% consistency, dedication, and focus. And at times can seem to overtake everything else in one's life. It can become all-consuming. Life is an endless cycle of cardio, meal, train, meal, sleep ... lather, rinse, repeat. Time is spent shopping for food, cooking food, preparing food, measureing food, packing food, eating food, and thinking about food. In between all that, time is spent planning cardio, training, and meal times.

It's a very structured, disciplined, regimented existence. There's very little variety in anything. And everything has a purpose. Every exercise, cardio session, and movement is done for a specific reason; no movements are wasted, as anything more than a necessary movement requires energy the competitor doesn't have to spare. How is that healthy?

What about a social life? Competitors respond, "What's a social life?" What about holidays? Competitors respond, "What's a holiday? That's no excuse to miss a workout, cardio session, or meal. It's no excuse to not follow the diet." What about travel and vacations? Competitors respond, "I pack all my food and bring my cooler with me."
I have one just like this, but in Pink!

The week of the show ...

Competitors have very little energy, and do as little as possible the week of the show. Many take time off work a couple days before the show because they can't think straight. Others try to lighten their workload until they return from the show. For many, the diet changes the last week. Some introduce new food that hasn't been in the diet at all up until this point: pancakes, candy, jelly, burgers, soda, chocolate. Healthy food? I think not!

Common "carb up" food

The day of the show ...

Almost every competitor I've talked to (including me) doesn't sleep well the night before a show, and they're up at the crack of dawn, putting on that last coat of paint, or eating food to "carb up." Many shows begin at 9 am, with check-in at 8 am. Competitors need to be ready to go and at the venue before then. At this point, most competitors have stopped drinking water or have drastically reduced their intake to a small percentage of what they normally drink. Most are hungry, tired, and thirsty. It's very common to have at least one competitor cramp up at some point during the day, and some are light-headed from lack of nutrients and electrolyte imbalance.

There are 2 parts to a show: Pre-judging and the Evening show. It's rare for the Evening show to end earlier than 10 pm, which makes for a very long day for competitors. After the show, gluttony is the name of the game! Since they've been deprived of so many foods for so long, competitors are well known to eat after the show until they can't move. And they're not just eating healthy food - they're eating whatever the heck they want to eat!!

Jerry enjoying calamari after the Lehigh Valley show

So tell me again how similar LOOKING and actually BEING healthy really are! I'll be the first to admit that competitive bodybuilding is not a healthy sport. It's an extreme sport, and just like any other extreme sport, it has its health risks. Do you really think Lance Armstrong is completely healthy? What about marathon runners? Any form of extreme sports comes with its share of unhealthy qualities.

So while physique competitors may LOOK healthy during contest prep, most are actually much healthier when they're in the off-season. Their diets are more well-rounded, they're not overtrained, and they have more balance in their lives. No, they're not going to look as lean, but they're look more "normal." And to me, actually BEING healthy is much more beautiful than just LOOKING healthy.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Abs ... Where Did You Go??

It's the day after my birthday ... and I'm still recovering from yesterday's celebrations. I lost count of how many cookies I ate, but really, who needs to count cookies??

Last night when I got home from work, Jerry and I broke into my ice cream cake. He went to two stores to try to find the cookies & cream cake I wanted, but both stores were out, so he got the original. It was still really good!

My ice cream cake! Love all the festive colors of frosting! Also note the cute shirt (birthday present from Jerry).

For those who need a close-up view of the cake ...

 Oooh! Purty!

Since the cake was small, we each ate a quarter of it before heading out to the Washington Nationals baseball game. I'd mapped the Metro route online, and when we got off at the designated stop, we followed the sign that said "Stadium this way!" ... before we were stopped by a Metro employee. He'd noticed my [new] Nationals hat, and asked if we were going to the game. He then informed us that we were at the OLD stadium (where games are no longer played), and needed to get back on the Metro for 5 stops, then transfer to another line for another couple stops. What?! I politely requested that he inform someone that their website needs to be updated.

One Metro stop later, and Jerry decided he just couldn't wait till the transfer point to find a restroom (oh, the fun things that go along with competing ... that gallon of water gets ya every time!), so we got off the Metro and quickly found a Starbucks restroom. Jerry recognized the area we were in, and said he swore the stadium was "just across the street" from the gym where he used to work. So we decided to walk to the gym, and figured we'd see the stadium. It was at this point that I should've known better. This information was coming from a guy who get to a location one way, and takes a different way home because he continually misses correct exits.

So we started walking. We found the gym after making no less than 5 turns down different streets. But no stadium in sight. We wandered around for a little while longer and started following groups of people wearing baseball jerseys. Still no stadium. Srsly, who can't find a huge STADIUM in a city?! Um, us, apparently.

A nice man riding a bike with a rickshaw attached to it asked if we wanted a free ride to the stadium. Um YEAH! A couple minutes later, and we were at the stadium ... 30 min after exiting the Metro.

We immediately purchased food ($30 for a hot dog, burger, fries, and Diet Coke), then found our seats. Best. Seats. Ever. Season tickets (thanks to our friend, Rob!) right over the visiting team dugout.

Note the hot dog in Jerry's hands. He's so happy not to be dieting anymore!

The game was awesome! It included an in-the-park homerun and a triple play. Both against our team, but we ended up winning anyway.

We pretty much ate our way through the game. After the initial food, I had a slice of pizza, nachos grande, and a $5 bag of M&M's (note to self: purchase snacks outside of stadium and sneak them in next time).

 Nachos grande!!

We finished up the ice cream cake when we got home last night. And I may or may not have eaten a couple more cookies. By the time I went to bed, my abs were completely gone. Gluttony at its best!

Today, I'm completely back on my diet, as planned. My abs are starting to come back, and the water retention is going down already (thank goodness!). I'm still trying to wean myself off caffeine, so I've been struggling with feeling sleepy and lethargic all day (may also have something to do with my body trying to process massive amounts of carbs). I'm gettin' ready to hit up the gym for some circuit training and cardio.

Jerry and I kept mentioning how nice it was not to have to worry about bringing our own food, and getting our meals in at the game. It felt nice to be "normal" for a little while. At the same time, I really don't think I could live like that all the time. I didn't feel guilty eating those foods, but it's also not something I'd want to do every day. A few treats now and then, or a Treat Day once a week are just fine for me.

I'm still struggling to have a normal relationship with food - to not let it be such an influential factor in my life. I don't want to struggle with feelings of guilt or self-loathing every time I indulge at a planned time (because I don't allow non-planned indulges very often). I can honestly say I was disgusted by how my body looked at the end of the evening. But I was also aware that those treats were not an indication of a downhill slide or an out of control spiral. I know I have the power to change how I look and feel. And I know the water weight will be gone by next week. I just need to be patient and stick to my diet plan.

I found myself thinking back to the days before I competed. I never would've eaten that much food in one day! And I wouldn't have been so aware of how those foods affected my body. Since I've been competing, I've become much more aware of the affects of foods - both mentally and physically. But I'm also aware that I have the knowledge, power, and discipline to make the changes I want to make at any time.

A wonderful present!

Yesterday was a celebration, and today is the next step on my journey. Seven more weeks until Team Universe, and I'm on the right track!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Birthday Treats!

So I know that yesterday I said I was planning on sticking to my diet during the day today and then having some treats tonight. But ... this morning I decided that that plan didn't sound like so much fun. So I had a cookie for breakfast. :) When I got to work, I decided to buy myself a birthday treat. Everyone around here always has treats from Stella's Bakery, and since I'm always on my diet foods during the week, I never get to partake in the treats.

The bakery is a cute little place, very reminiscent of bakeries in France. I was charmed by all the croissants and different cakes. I was expecting the standard donut selection, but they didn't have any. So I picked out this tasty-looking layered-thingy. I have no idea what it's called, except "HEAVEN"! :)

Heaven ...

Since it has fruit on it, that means it's healthy, right?!

I've had a couple of my standard turkey-and-almond meals, with some cookies interspersed. I kinda feel like I'm on a bit of a sugar high right now, even though I'm sleepy (trying to wean myself off caffeine).

My day started off with Ed (my 17 lb cat) laying on my head and purring at 7:30 am. Jerry was so excited for me to open my presents, that I actually opened a couple last night at midnight. He tried to give them to me earlier by handing me a plastic bag with items in it. I informed him that there was a large bag filled with gift bags and tissue paper under the bed in the spare room, and he could select any bag to use to put my gift in. He's a smart guy, so he took the hint and disappeared into the spare room, only to emerge 2 minutes later with a huge smile on his face and 2 gift bags in his hand.

"Open them now!!" He exclaimed. I laughed and told him I wanted to wait until it was actually my birthday. He's so cute - he gets so excited about giving me gifts (and he always does a great job picking things out!). So I opened one of the gift bags last night. He gave me a movie and a book, and then informed me that he always thought it was dumb to give books as gifts until he realized that I'd absolutely love to receive a book as a gift. LOL

This morning I opened the other present - he got me a cute shirt to wear to work. Proof that he actually DOES listen to me! I've been complaining that I only have like 3 shirts to wear to work. So I'm wearing my new shirt today along with super cute sandals that have thus far required 3 band-aids on my feet. But they're cute. And they match my outfit.

I feel so loved today - I've gotten a bunch of birthday wishes from people I know from various times in my life. I love social networking sites! :)

Tonight we're going to a Washington Nationals baseball game - my first pro baseball game in over 5 years! I'm so excited! Haven't been to a game since I moved to Montana 5 years ago.

Jerry just pulled up to my office to pick me up, so I'm gonna head out to have some ice cream cake (more proof that Jerry listens to me - he bought an ice cream cake today!!) before heading to the game. I'm gonna enjoy my treats, cuz I'm back on the clean foods wagon tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Falling Off the Wagon & Ice Cream Cake

Today is a milestone for Figure Girl World! This is my 100th blog post! :) Apparently, I've had 100 thoughts I felt I needed to write about.

So what's up in Kari's world today?

Well, I fell off the diet wagon last night (yes, already), and ate some cookies. Yes, cookieS - plural. I was so good all day until late afternoon when I decided I wanted to eat a Power Crunch bar between meals. The bar could've been its own meal, but I added it in. So there was 200 extra cal in my diet. Then when I got to the gym, Jerry had candy that one of our friends (Annie) had brought back from Bulgaria for us. I asked Jerry if I could have a piece of chocolate, he said yes, and then the evening went downhill from there. I had 3 pieces of chocolate candy (really good, by the way. It was actually from Greece) before my workout. After my workout, I wasn't very hungry, so I didn't eat my post-workout meal (turkey & almonds).

At home, I was greeted by one rambunctious puppy (Bruno) and one rather subdued puppy (Nikko). Turns out Nikko was sick, so there were several piles of pooh and some pee on the kitchen floor. Which meant that after I cleaned it all up, I needed to wash the entire floor. A half hour later, the kitchen was sparkling, I still hadn't eaten, and Nikko proceeded to throw up. At that point, I realized I really wasn't hungry for cold turkey again, and just gave in to my craving for an Elle's Belles cookie. It tasted REALLY good. So did the Twix that followed it. And later, the Girl Scout cookies and my favorite Lofthouse Strawberry Shortcake cookies.



So what was it that triggered me to give myself permission to cheat. And yes, this was "cheating" on my diet, since it wasn't planned, and was most definitely NOT included in my diet. A couple factors contributed to it.
  • I've been dieting for 24 weeks. No, I didn't do 24 straight weeks without any Treat meals. But it's been 24 weeks of strict compliance to a plan. Very little variety, very structured program. It was necessary for me to achieve my goals, but at the same time, it took a toll on me mentally. It's not an excuse for me to cheat on my diet by any means! But it was definitely a contributing factor.
  • I still have 8 weeks until Team Universe, and I know I can whip my body into contest shape in under 4 weeks if I maintain a certain level of conditioning. Eating some extra foods 2 days after a show will not have any impact on my Team U prep. Now, if I continue to have treats or go completely off my diet, that WILL have an impact. However, that won't happen, so I'm not concerned about a couple cookies.
  • I'd already broken compliance with my diet for the day by adding in the protein bar when I shouldn't have. Again, not an excuse! I remember someone giving me this analogy for cheating on a diet: It's like bouncing a check. If one check bounces, will you continue to write bad checks the whole day since one check already bounced? If you have a piece of candy, is your diet for the day ruined? Why continue to bounce checks (cheat more on your diet) instead of just stop writing checks that day? Makes sense to me! But I ignored that voice in my head last night.
  • Jerry told me he planned to go to Wendy's to order just a cheeseburger and wasn't gonna have any fries. But when he got there, he ordered fries and ate them all. Well, if he got to cheat, why couldn't I? TOTALLY not good reasoning! But yeah, it went through my head.
None of these factors are any reason to cheat on my diet ... yet they were all thoughts in my head last night. I'm not ashamed of myself or disappointed in myself. Mostly because I know those cookies didn't do any damage to my contest prep, and I'm confident I'll be back on track the rest of the week. The only exception is tomorrow, because it's my birthday! Yep - National Holiday. Ha

So what makes my birthday an occasion to not follow my diet? Well, nothing, really. Last year I was prepping during my birthday, and I didn't have any birthday treats. So why am I going to have some tomorrow? Because last year, my show was only 4 weeks after my birthday, and I was behind in prep. I couldn't afford NOT to follow my diet. This year, I'm still only a couple days out of a show, and have enough time to get into shape. The only reason I'm even following a diet now is because I want to bring my BEST conditioning EVER to Team U, and the only way to do that is to maintain a higher level of conditioning and leanness for the weeks leading up to the show. Plus, I like looking and feeling lean.

So tomorrow, I'll follow my diet during the day, and then will most likely have some treats in the evening. Jerry's taking me to a Nationals baseball game tomorrow night. I'm so excited! I haven't been to a baseball game in over 5 years, since Montana doesn't have a professional team.

 I hinted that I want ice cream cake for my birthday, so hopefully he got the hint (Did you read that, Jerry? ICE CREAM CAKE). Here was our conversation at Safeway a couple weeks ago:

Jerry: Whatcha lookin at?

Me: Ice cream cakes. You know, I really love ice cream cakes!

Jerry: Oh.

Me: I get to have cake on my birthday, right?

Jerry: Yeah. It's right after the Lehigh, and you'll have enough time before Team U. It'll be fine.

Me: I think I'd really like that one.

Jerry: Which one?

Me: THAT one! The cookies & cream one.

Jerry: Are you telling me you want ice cream cake for your birthday?

Me: Yes.

Jerry: So you want me to buy you an ice cream cake for your birthday.

Me: Yes.

Similar to what I want tomorrow

That's how I "hint" that I want him to buy something. Gotta love our method of communication! :) Oh, and side note: today is our 1-year anniversary of dating. :)

The day we first met - May 1, 2009

So back to my diet. I'm right on track today. After I post this, I'll be hittin' up da gym for some active recovery training. It's pretty much a full body circuit, light weights, higher reps. Just enough to keep some blood flowing through my muscles without overtaxing them. Competitions are very stressful on the body, so it's important to give the body some time to recharge afterward. I'll do 30 min of light cardio after the workout too.

I was 107 lbs last night, which means I'm retaining about 7 lbs of water since Saturday. Yipes! Very normal, though, and it's already starting to come off. I've still got veins running down my arms (hooray) and striations in my shoulders. Once some of the food processes, and I drop some water weight, I should be at about 104 lbs. I'd like to remain only about 5 lbs over contest weight so I don't have to train so hard when it comes time to gear up for Team U prep.

That's what's new in Kari's world! Time to hit up da gym!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Food and Tanning Issues

Back to the real world today ...

After yesterday's gluttony fest, I was ready to get back on my diet of clean foods today. Yes, you read that right - I was ready to get back on my diet. Yes, I'm the girl who, just a couple days ago, was dramatically pining over cookies and cakes. Yep, that was me. So what changed?

Well, remember when I said I figured all I needed were a couple cookies and the option to add some variety into my diet? I got that. So now I'm content to be back on my diet again. Simple as that! Amazing how something so simple can make such a big difference in attitude!

Jerry and I talked about the different foods I can add to my diet, and I'm once again a happy camper! I can have protein powder, my favorite Power Crunch bars (OMG), and some different proteins.

My favorite protein bars ever!

I'm excited about being able to be just a bit more relaxed about my diet and training for a couple weeks. I feel less pressure, which is very refreshing. It feels so good to be able to say, "Sure, we can go out to eat with you!" when people ask now. (Not that many people ask, cuz we're usually dieting and have to say no, but the point is, we CAN say yes now.)

So that's today. Back on track, trying to get rid of this (#*$&(#^ water retention. Why am I retaining water right now? In order for me to look MY best on stage, I need to reduce sodium and water. I don't completely cut either out, but I reduce the water from about 2 gal/day down to 1 litre the day of the show. So when I'm standing on stage, I barely have any water in me, and very little food. Not everyone is like that, though. Jerry needed to eat before he went on stage, so he looked fuller. If I did that, I'd spill over and just look soft and round, almost puffy instead of lean. Because my body operates this way, after the show, I usually retain a fair amount of water for a couple days. It's only temporary, and I know it'll be gone by the end of the week (fingers crossed!), but it's still frustrating for me.

To make matters worse, I ate a bunch of food yesterday that I normally don't eat. Why? Because I can! LOL After not having any treats for the past 5 weeks, I was more than ready to eat whatever the heck I wanted! So here's what I ate yesterday ...

Meal 1: Biscuits, cake donut, fruit loops, OJ, 3 packages of 100 cal flavored rice cakes (OMG YUM!! Cinnamon streusal and caramel)

Meal 2: French toast and biscuits (at Cracker Barrel), cookie, Twix

Meal 3: Cheez-its baked snack mix, cookie

Meal 4: McDonald's grilled chicken salad, fries

Meal 5: 3 bowls of Special K Cinnamon crunch, Reese's PB cups, bag of coconut M&M's

When I look back at this, maybe it doesn't seem like a lot. But boy, was I stuffed! And SO ready to go back on my diet and eat clean foods again! I guess I didn't eat as many cookies yesterday as I thought I did. I know I ate 4 after the show. :)

Elle's Belles cookies, ordered from my Montana ... because they're my absolute favorite!

I realize this blog has been mostly about food so far! So what else happened during this process??

Well, interestingly enough, both Jerry and I learned that while it sounds really cool and cute to do a show together, it's not always fun and games. We got on each other's nerves, had moments of high emotions and tension, and sometimes didn't feel like talking to the other at all. But after those moments passed, we'd talk about them and figure out what we learned about ourselves and about each other. It was sometimes very difficult to put myself aside and focus on him and his needs. I ended up driving places a lot of the time because he couldn't focus or think straight. I didn't necessarily WANT to be driving because I was tired or hungry, or often both, but I was in better shape mentally than he was. And he sometimes had to stay up late to cook food for me because we'd both miscalculated on what I needed for the next day. So even though he was tired, he'd stay up to help me. So we both learned to give more.

Jerry and me backstage

The night before we left for PA, we took turns painting the tan on each other. He used Pro Tan, and I used Jan Tana. So when I was packing for the show, I packed tanning stuff for ME (ie - 1 bottle of Jan Tana hi-def and 1 bottle of Ultra top coat). I'd completely forgotten that he was going to put 2 coats of Jan Tana on at the hotel. So when we got there and were ready to paint, we realized we didn't have enough Jan Tana hi-def paint for both of us. OMG!! BAD situation! It's not like we could just run out and buy some - it has to be ordered and shipped. So I decided that since I already had a good base coat, and I knew the Ultra color (which is supposed to be only 1 top coat) worked well on me, we'd use the hi-def for Jerry and just do 2 coats of Ultra on me. It was a gamble, because we didn't know if the 2nd layer of Ultra would go on me evenly.

There was just enough hi-def to give Jerry the 2 coats he needed. Whew! We topped him off with 1 coat of Ultra the morning of the show, and his color looked great! The Ultra didn't go on my skin very evenly, though. Our guess is that because I didn't have a layer of hi-def on, it didn't soak in evenly. So we had some blending issues with my color, and then when we tried to put the second layer on the morning of the show, it was all blotchy. Pretty much a disaster! Judges have been known to take points off for bad color, so I just resigned myself to not winning since my color was off.

When we got to the show, it was really hot in the building, so Jerry's tan started to run. Not good! We touched him up, and evened things out, so that was a crisis diverted! But we didn't realize I needed to be touched up until after we'd put a layer of oil on me. So when we tried to blend a patch on my leg, the color just came right off. So there was an area next to my knee without any color. It looked awful! I just prayed the judges would ignore it and focus instead on my winning presentation. Ha

 On stage

Talk about a stressful situation! With both of us competing, it was difficult for us to help the other out and be there in the ways we each needed the other. We managed, but there were some tense moments backstage and some almost-tears (on my part, of course). We pulled it together, and decided to make it a fun experience as best we could. And we did! I had a blast on stage, and I think Jerry had fun too!

Clearly, the judges did not take away points for color (whew!), and we both walked away with trophies. Here's a video we took after I took 1st in my class.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lehigh Valley Figure A Champion!!

I just have time for a quick update before we head back to Maryland.

I won my class last night!! I now have a Figure A 1st place trophy sitting next to me. :) I'm really excited about the win, and am recharged for my Team Universe prep.

 Lehigh Figure A 1st Place!

Jerry took 5th in a stacked heavyweight class, so we both walked away with a trophy.

 Matching tropies!

We had a really nice Italian dinner last night (tried not to think about all the carbs and lack of protein source), and then ate some cookies and other junk food back at the hotel. This morning we went downstairs at the hotel, thinking there'd be good breakfast food. Disappointment! Cold little donuts, cereal, biscuits & gravy, and waffles. I had Fruit Loops. We're gonna check out of the hotel and hit up Perkins for a REAL breakfast before hitting the road! :)

Yummy Italian food post-show

 Best. Cookie. Ever.

I may have a couple treats tomorrow, but I'll be fully back on my diet on Tuesday. I don't mean the diet I've had the past few weeks, though. I'm gonna get some different food (hooray for protein powder!) and variety, which I'm looking forward to.

 Muscle Couple

I'm a happy girl today! Amazing what a 1st place win and some cookies will do to improve my mood! :)


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Before Finals

I'm sitting in the hotel room right now, waiting to go back to the auditorium for Finals. The day of the Lehigh show is finally here!! Pre-judging was this morning, and it seemed to go well for both of us. I was put in the middle of the lineup right away, and they just left me there, re-arranging girls around me. There were 8 girls in my class. I've got my fingers crossed for 1st place!

Jerry weighed in as a heavyweight at 206 lbs, and also had 8 guys in his class. They didn't move many guys around, but they did move him 2 spots closer to the middle of the lineup. Good sign!

I'm gonna lie down for a little while and then we're off to Finals!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Anticipation ... and cookies!

Right now, life is good. Life is very, very good!

The past few days have been stressful ... I've been really busy at work and doing final week prep stuff. But right now, the big hurdles have been crossed.

I successfully presented the training I've been frantically writing for the past week and a half, and it went really well! No technical issues, and lots of good questions. I'm so relieved to have it finished!

Last night I finished my final workout - a light circuit - and cardio. It's always such a relief to finish the final workout. All the hard work is over, and then it's time to relax. I was really focused last night ... had my ipod up loud, and really focused on the mind-muscle connection because the weights were light. I still found myself fatiguing quickly, but I pushed through and felt better at the end of the workout. I can honestly say that's the best I've felt during a final workout.

Jerry and I chat about our prep for the LeHigh show

My final workout before my first competition was a disaster. I literally had NO energy at all. I dragged myself into the gym, wearing sweats and a hoodie (with the hood up). I was supposed to do some sets on the leg press with plates on either side, but I couldn't even move it. I ended up doing some reps with 25  lbs on either side, and crying during every set. People were looking at me oddly (what? You've never seen someone cry in the gym before? Apparently you've never met me! LOL). I didn't talk to anyone. Just did my sets, and dragged myself out the door. People still remember that night and like to remind me of it. Boy are things different now!

With the final gym time out of the way, Jerry and I are now focused on shaving, tanning, packing, and food prep. I did my home waxing stuff last night and then helped Jerry get all shaved up. We went to bed late, and were up early this morning to put his first coat of Pro Tan on. His skin is so light, and almost repels the tan, that we have to start painting him several days out from a show, and put lots of coats on him. Kind of a pain. I felt so bad for him this morning, cuz the tan liquid is cold, and in order for it to dry properly, it almost has to freeze on the body. So he was shivering while I was applying it, and then he had to stand in front of the fan to dry.

This morning I got my brows done, and this afternoon, I'm getting my nails and toes done. Love all the final beauty stuff! I got my hair done on Sunday, so I've been rockin' the highlights again. I love feeling all spit shined and polished up!

Tonight we're gonna have a tanning party at home! Jerry will put on my first coat of Jan Tana (I like that product better for my skin. Pro Tan makes me look orange), and I'll put another coat of Pro Tan on him. We'll weigh out and pack up our food, and then hit the road tomorrow morning!

Last night I gathered up all the post-show goodies I've slowly been accumulating, and put them all into a cooler. Just want to make sure I don't forget anything! And the best news of all ... My dozen cookies from Elle's Belles arrived this afternoon!!! :) Those will get packed up too and brought to the show. (Can you tell what I've been craving most?!)

I picked up a couple boxes of Lofthouse cookie last night on an almond-and-water run to the store

I'm excited that everything is coming together just right! I'm looking forward to hittin' the road tomorrow morning, and rocking the stage with Jerry this weekend!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oh Extra ... How I Miss Thee!

Today has been ... an experience. Work was super busy, and I was answering questions about 3 different projects, all the while still working on finalizing a training I need to deliver tomorrow morning.

Note to self: Never let yourself be scheduled to deliver a training 2 days before your show.

Another note to self: Never tell someone you can write a really good training the week of your show.

Just when I thought I had a final rough draft of the training written, I got a bunch of comments about things to "just add in" to it. Easier said than done. Several of those items didn't make it into the training. I already have nearly 50 slides for a 60-min training. MORE than enough!

So anyway, that was a long explanation about how scattered my brain is today. And how little patience I have for changes.

Today was the day that all of my artificial sweeteners got removed from my diet. That means no Crystal Lite, no sugar-free gum, no Diet Coke, and no sparkling water (Safeway brand - so yummy!). Essentially, all flavor removed from my diet. Well, except for the taco-flavored turkey, that is. But even some flavor was removed from that, as I barely used any soy sauce (I'm known for dumping soy sauce on most everything), and no salt (same issue as soy sauce). I totally feel like my breath stinks, but I can't really tell. I miss my gum. Sigh.

Oh, Extra gum ... how I miss thee ...

At the same time, due to those changes, I feel like my body has already started to tighten up. The last 2 days, I've felt like I was holding water, but I don't feel as bloated anymore. I'm a hungry, hungry hippo and thirsty as a dehydrated camel. All good things! Why is that good? It means my metabolism is revved, making my body a fat-burning machine, and my body is expelling water, tightening up and drying out.

This morning I finished my last morning cardio session , and I'm just about to hit up the gym for my last training and cardio session. The hard work is done!!

Tonight is the ever-so-fun shaving and waxing party, and tomorrow morning, Jerry gets his first coat of tan. His skin nearly repels color, so we're starting the painting process earlier with him, and will put more coats on him throughout the next 2 days. I'll get my first coat of tan tomorrow night, and then shower it off on Friday morning. We plan on taking turns painting each other on Friday. Oh, the things we do as competitors (and think are perfectly normal!)! :)

I'm looking forward to being finished with this training material tomorrow morning, so I can fully focus on the show. Yeah, I know ... priorities ... Ha

I'm off to the gym for my final workout! One step closer to the stage!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Final Week Prep Anxiety

Four more days till show time ...

Jerry and I have been talking about how to handle my final week prep. Since my body responded differently for this prep than for my last one (read: I got leaner faster), we're doing things just a bit differently. Some things are similar, but since I'm already leaner now than I was on stage at the Arnold, we're re-evaluating our approach.

This is a rather difficult thing for me to do, since I'm a very process-oriented, planning-type person. I like things to be the same (read: almost to the point of boring), and I like to know what to expect. Well, since my body reacted differently than we expected (in a good way), we need to change things a bit from last time. And that makes me nervous.

I fully trust Jerry's judgment and expertise, so whatever he says to do or not to, I'll follow. Doesn't mean I won't question it, though. I always want to know why something is the way it is. Or why we do or don't do certain things certain ways. When I know the reason behind things, I feel comforted, because I can set realistic expectations. However ... asking Jerry to explain things isn't always a fun thing to do, especially when he's so depleted and run-down too. Thankfully, he was able to muster up the patience to explain the reasoning behind his approach to me last night, and now I understand why we're taking this approach. I'm still nervous about it, though, because it's something different.

Final week prep approach is always a slightly scary thing, since it has to be dead on in order to peak just right on stage. Overlooking just one thing can make a big difference. I realize it's tough for Jerry to be the trainer, coach, boyfriend, and bodybuilder all at the same time. But I think he's doing a great job, and I'm excited to bring my best conditioning yet to the stage this weekend!

Progress pics from this weekend. These were taken after morning cardio, before any meals.

My weight has been holding steady at 101 lbs, and my bodyfat on Saturday after these pictures were taken is about 8.8% according to the 7-point online calculator thingy. I know those things aren't extremely accurate, but suffice to say, I'm close to 9%, which is the leanest I've ever been without being dehydrated on stage.

Four days and counting!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Peek into the Windows of My Life

Since my blog is about my everyday life ... I thought I'd give you a peek in the windows of my life.

Let's start with my work life ...
I haven't posted in several days because last week, something called "scope creep" happened at work. I was originally asked to write a half hour training course for a couple employees. Over the next couple days, that half hour expanded into an hour course with audience interaction and a possible video connection ... plus a complete re-vamp of an existing PPT. Whaaat?! And then the date of the training got pushed up a week. To this week. Which is my final prep week. Which is usually when my brain power is the lowest.

So, like a good little employee, I said I could have it done. And so I've been frantically working hard to get all these materials finished. And surprisingly, I've got the rough draft done already, which is why I have time to write this blog. :)

Final prep week + job stress = not a good thing

Now on to training, diet, and cardio ...
It's all on point. This week starts week 24 of dieting for me. Yep - I started dieting right after Thanksgiving, and have been following a keto-type (zero carb) diet since then, with a weekly planned Treat Day or Meal (depending on my conditioning).

After the Arnold, I scaled everything back. Added more food into my diet - still very strict, though - cut cardio in half, and started doing less intense workouts. All of that contributed to my weight remaining constant, but my body looking flatter and more watery. Jerry and I couldn't figure out why I was looking worse and worse, yet maintaining my weight.

Then he realized that I was losing muscle and holding water. We had anticipated the water retention, but what we didn't count on was me losing muscle as a result of lower intensity training. So we increased the intensity of my workouts, add more cardio in, and changed the diet a bit all at the same time. Oh, and cut out any treats. And just like that, my body tightened up in a week! So there I was ... ready at 3 weeks out!

Since then, I've been maintaining. My workouts have been intense (which I love!), the cardio has actually decreased (which I also LOVE!!), and since last week, I've gotten to ADD some foods back into my diet (which I also love love LOVE!!). And I'm still maintaining my weight, leanness, and conditioning. Whoda thunk?!

Last month, there was a big (blown out of proportion) debate on a forum about diets damaging metabolism. Sadly, many women (including myself in past years) have experienced metabolic damage due to overtraining, poor contest diets, and trainers who don't care about their clients or know how to properly diet/train their clients. Jerry was accused of being one of those trainers. Obviously the people accusing him had never worked with him, cuz my metabolism is screamin' right now, and I'm not even remotely overtrained or over-dieted! :)

What about my emotional state ...

As I talked about in a previous post, I know that maintaining this conditioning is not healthy, nor is it feasible for me. I'm excited about the changes I've made to my body, and can't wait to bring those changes to the stage. My legs have come down quite a bit in size, but now they seem to balance my upper body better. So while I love how I look right now, I know it's not healthy long-term. I don't feel very good most of the time, as my body is struggling to find homeostasis (and believe me - it likes to be a LOT heavier!).

I'm trying to prepare myself for the few days after the show when I'll be retaining a lot of water, will feel bloated, and yes, fat. Even though I'll KNOW I'm not fat (because it's not possible to gain fat in one day), I'll feel like it. But I need those treats and different foods after the show for both my physical and mental well-being.

The diet is really starting to get to me. Not that it's a difficult diet by any means. In fact, the reason it's starting to get to me is because I'm bored with it. I made it easy by deciding to eat the same thing for most of my meals ... so while it's really easy to prepare my food for the week, my meals are also very boring. And like I said earlier, I haven't had any treats for several weeks. I think this is the longest I've gone without any Treat meals.

I'm so ready to be done dieting. For the first time during prep, I've been looking at pictures of food. Big confession: I purposely walk through the bakery section and sniff the donuts and cookies. Yep, you read that right. I actually open the donut case, stick my head in, and inhale deeply. Then I close the case and walk away.

 This makes me drool.

I probably sound like a crazy lunatic, but my body is craving sugar right now. I have 5 different kinds of sugar-free gum in my purse just to get some different flavors into my mouth. I'm so focused on my goal that there's no way I'll stray off my diet, but there are definitely moments every day that I struggle and wish I could have more variety. I don't want to change anything the last week before the show, though. I just need to get through this week, and then Jerry and I will come up with a plan. I realize I need a better balance in my life, and less of a focus on food. I think just adding some variety into my diet after the show will help things immensely. Oh, and a day or TWO of eating COOKIES!! :)

Jerry and I are dieting for the same show ... how does that affect our home life ...
Let me start off with the good things about dieting at the same time as my boyfriend. The best thing is that there's no "bad" food in the house. By "bad" food, I just mean food that's not in either of our diets (except for the 20 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, half of which are in the freezer behind the broccoli bags, and half of which are hidden in a cupboard). By not having any of that food in the house, we're never tempted to eat anything off our diets. That's not to say that we couldn't have it in the house, because we both have enough will-power to resist it, but it's much easier to not have to look at it.

We both eat at relatively the same times throughout the day. We don't have to worry about sitting through a dinner of different (and yummy smelling) food that everyone else is eating, and then either eating different food during the dinner, or sitting there watching everyone else eat. We don't have a dining room table yet, so we either eat standing in the kitchen, at the computer desk, or on the couch. Classy, I know.

We also both understand what the other is feeling. Most of the time, neither of us feel very well. We're tired, we're sore, we hurt, we're hungry, we're frustrated. It's nice to know that someone understands and can empathize with me when I'm feeling down.

At the same time, since we're both experiencing these feelings at the same time, neither of us has the other to pick us back up. If I'm feeling down, chances are, so is Jerry. Who's there to try to pick me back up? And vice versa. We're both tense, emotional, stressed, tired, and run-down ... recipe for disaster!

I'm not gonna lie - we've had some "discussions" and outright arguments these past few weeks. At times, it's been tough for both of us. But I really believe that this experience is making our relationship stronger. We're learning more about each other, and growing together. I can't wait to stand on stage with him next Saturday, and know that all of the struggles, dedication, and hard work was worth it!

Jerry and Me

So there's a peek into the windows of my life. Sometimes it's difficult to be brutally honest and open, but at the same time, I firmly believe that it makes me a better person. It forces me to look deeper inside myself and find positive things out of experiences and emotions that don't seem positive at the time. It's also a good exercise for me to reflect on my experiences and to apply the knowledge I gained to create a wonderful future.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Definition of Beauty

I realized something important today ... not everyone has the same ideal of "beauty" as I do. Ok, that may seem like an obvious statement, but it's something I don't stop to think about very often. As I get more and more involved in the fitness and bodybuilding industry, I'm surrounded by more people who view beauty as I do - a strong, muscular physique. We encourage and support training hard and dieting strictly. We see nothing odd about going to the bathroom 15 times a day, drinking over a gallon of water each day, spending more than 2 hours at the gym every night, and packing our cooler with us everywhere we go. To us, that's "normal." But apparently to others, it's weird.

Today when a co-worker discovered that I train like a bodybuilder, she started asking me questions about different exercises. She patted the backs of her arms and asked how she could get rid of "the jiggle." When I asked if she had any dumbbells at home, she said she did, and then proceeded to demonstrate how she uses them by doing mimicking bicep curls. I told her that that exercise would build her biceps, and pointed to my biceps. She immediately shook her head and informed me that she didn't want to build that at all. She just didn't want her arms to jiggle. I was baffled that anyone would NOT want to train their biceps! Aren't biceps beautiful? Who wouldn't want them?!

She then pointed to her glute/hamstring tie-in and asked how she could tighten up that area. When she hit a yoga pose to demonstrate how she "trains" that area, I realized I was talking with someone whose lifestyle is completely foreign to me. It's been so long since I've talked with anyone who isn't intimately familiar with each muscle group and how to work them.

I showed her some glute kickbacks, and then suggested she buy a stretchy band and follow some of the exercises in the booklet that comes with it. When she later asked what exercises she could do for her ankles, and I suggested calf raises to build the calves to make her ankles appear smaller, she immediately rejected that idea. She had no interest in building any leg muscle. I was so confused. How could anyone NOT want to build muscle?? Who doesn't want to have shapely legs and arms??

And that's when I realized that I have a completely different view of "beautiful." I admire strong, muscular, yet shapely physiques. I admire people who work hard in the gym to get stronger, bigger, faster, leaner. To me, a strong, healthy physique says a lot about a person. It demonstrates a good work ethic, dedication, determination, and most of all, discipline. All traits that I admire and find beautiful.

I'm comfortable with my perspective of "beautiful," yet I can also respect other opinions. I know that not everyone finds muscles attractive, and while I don't understand it, I can respect their differing opinion. I was just caught off guard today by a different viewpoint, most likely because I've chosen to surround myself with people who hold similar views as I do.

My co-worker is excited about her new exercises to reduce jiggle, and I'm excited to hit the stage next weekend and display a strong, muscular, lean physique. Two different goals, two different ideals of "beautiful."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Food Obsession?

The other day, one of my friends asked Jerry why all of my Facebook statuses seem to revolve around food. Until she pointed that out, I hadn't realized just how much I think about food throughout the day. I'm either eating a meal, planning when my next meal is, packing my food for the day, cooking food, and lately, looking up contest prep recipes and drooling over cakes. I'm wondering if I'm becoming obsessed with food?

This one is my favorite. Doesn't even look like a cake!

I don't really like to think of myself as "obsessed" about anything, as it seems to be such an extreme way of thinking. I could just pass these thoughts off as end-of-contest-prep cravings, but when I really look deep inside myself, I start to see that it may be more than just that.

Contest prep gives me a structured diet and plan to follow, which provides a sense of comfort and stability that's important to me. After awhile, I start to chafe at the the limitations and restrictions. Sometimes I just want a damn piece of cake! But I know if I ate the piece of cake, the guilt would follow. Off season, there'd be less guilt, but I still feel like I'm letting myself down because I know the cake doesn't support my goals of staying fit, healthy, and lean.

As I've mentioned before, this is the leanest I've been this far out from a show. I love feeling good about myself, and knowing that I can wear anything in my closet and it'll look good on me. It's been so long since I've felt this good about myself, and I'm constantly amazed when clothes that are usually too small actually fit me now.

There are several drawbacks to being this lean, though. Namely, I feel like crap. I have a constant flow of caffeine to get me through the day, and I take slightly more than I should take of pre-workout supps to push through my workouts. Not good for the long term, that's for sure! I'm also pretty sure I now have a warped sense of how I think I should look off-season. There's no way I can or should maintain this leanness after the shows. It's not healthy, and it's not natural for my body (my body LOVES to store a layer of water and fat all over, evenly distributed, so I just look puffy all over instead of in one area :P). I know, just KNOW that I'm going to feel depressed when I gain even 5 lbs back after the show.

The capris I'm wearing today are saggy and almost hanging off my butt. I remember when I couldn't even get them past my knees last summer, much less squeeze my butt into them! I love knowing that I'm small enough to wear them now ... but at the same time, I know how horrible I'm going to feel when I'm at a healthy weight and can't fit into them. How messed up is that?!

This week, I got to add more food into my diet. Wait a minute ... I got food ADDED to my diet the week before a show? Yep. Cuz I was ready for the show last week, and my body is a fat-burning machine. So I'm getting enough food and staying full ... yet I'm still thinking about food and drooling over recipes and cakes on the internet. Why?

I've been dieting for 22 weeks ... and while I've gotten some treats, had some good food, and haven't been starving myself, I'm still very limited on food choices. And that's starting to get to me. I eat the same thing 5 times a day. Makes it very easy to predict how my body is going to respond, but is also very boring for me. And I think that's why I've been thinking about food so much. Because MY food bores me.

I only have one more week left, and then I'll be on stage and I'll know that all the "boring" food will have paid off. So I just need to tough it out until then, and satisfy my cravings by looking at pictures like this.


I'm looking forward to some treats after the show, all the while knowing that there's a high probability of me freaking out about gaining a couple much-needed pounds. Hopefully I can keep my head screwed on straight, and then stick to a good, healthy off-season plan ... maybe one that includes the occasional piece of cake!

Monday, May 3, 2010

2010 Pittsburgh Recap

This weekend, Jerry and I went up to Pittsburgh to watch the Pittsburgh bodybuilding show. As I mentioned in previous entries, Jerry and I met at this show exactly a year ago, so we were both a bit nostalgic this weekend. This show was also the first shows that I've ever watched completely from the audience, without being backstage. I thought it would feel weird not to be behind the scenes, but it really wasn't. At this point in my prep, doing anything more than the necessities makes me tired to just think about it. So I was actually really happy to just stay in my seat and watch everyone else do their thang on stage.

We got to Pittsburgh late Friday evening (after only turning my yacht of a car around 4 times while trying to navigate to my friends' house). Mel and Damon opted to sit this show out, as they didn't think their 7-month-old would appreciate spending hours watching oiled up people pose on stage. So Jerry and I headed to pre-judging after doing morning cardio and packing all our meals for the day, along with a change of clothes for the evening show.

As always, this show didn't fail to impress. The lineups were solid, and it seemed like everyone brought their best package to the show. One of the teenage guys, Erik Christensen, dominated all of his classes. He's huge!! When he walked out with the teenage class, we all thought he'd messed up and entered the wrong class ... but then we found out he's only 19. This kid is gonna do some major damage on the bb scene in the next few years! He's the one on the far left.

Last year there was no Pro Figure at the Pittsburgh, but it was brought back this year, along with the inaugural Pro Bikini lineup. I was interested to watch these classes for several reasons.
  1. I wanted to see what the Pro Figure girls look like on stage. I wanted to see their presentations and their posing so I could take cues from them.
  2. I also wanted to look at their physiques. How much muscle do they carry? How lean are they?
  3. Since this was the first Pro Bikini show I'd seen, I wanted to see their posing and presentation too.
  4. I also wanted to see if I could figure out the judging criteria.
It was a great opportunity for me to see these divisions. I noticed many of the Pro Figure girls added little poses in between their model turns. Some walked with more sass, much like the Bikini girls. And much to my dismay, some even looked bored on stage! I was really surprised by this, especially considering everything I've heard about how important stage presentation is. I can understanding the girls shaking a bit from nerves, but I expected to see smiles at all times and a gracious expression on all of their faces. Not the case. And yes, these "bored" girls placed very high. Disappointing and confusing to me.

The bikini was ... an experience. When those girls took the stage, they really owned it! They all walked with sass, flipped their hair around, stuck their booties out, and flirted with the judges and audience. And apparently, that's the winning formula. Some of them held the booty pose for quite awhile, glancing flirtaciously over each shoulder at the judges before shifting their weight to the other hip. While this kind of posing isn't really my style, I must admit that most of the girls were classy and sassy, but not trampy. Their bodies were definitely tight and toned, which clearly indicated they put their time into the gym and the diet.

Nathalia Melo - Pro Bikini Winner

Nathalia Melo won the Pro Bikini show, upsetting 2-time Bikini winner Sonia Gonzalez. I was interested to see which of these ladies won, as they were both the only two Bikini pros to have won shows. The judges went with Nathalia's more streamlined physique and sassy presentation. Sonia presented herself a bit more cautiously, and dare I say, more ladylike?

I wasn't as impressed by the amateur bikini girls. Some were very classy with great proportions and toning, while others seemed to add a bit too much sass to their presentation, and crossed over to the trampy side. This seems to be a common trend in a lot of the local shows, where there's a mix of class and tramp style. I was happy to see that not everyone felt they needed to bend over at the waist in front of the audience and wiggle their booty. I was also happy to see the great shape and tone that most of the girls brought to the stage. The audience reaction was definitely different than the reaction during Figure, though!

Vanessa Campbell - Bikini Class A Winner

Speaking of amateur Figure, what a lineup! All the classes were stacked, and the competition was tough! A lady from a forum I belong to swept the Masters Short and Open Figure A classes with a full, tight physique. It seemed like the judges were looking for the best balance of symmetry, shape, and conditioning - it wasn't a hard vs soft look. Most of the girls who placed well were hard, but also very balanced. Some of the girls who came in looking like mini-bodybuilders didn't do so well because they were too blocky or their physiques didn't flow as well.

Amy Marie Fargo - Open Figure Class A and Masters Short Class Winner

While the location of the show is great, it doesn't leave much room for an expo. I was frustrated that I didn't get to experience and enjoy my absolute favorite part of expos: the free protein bar samples. As I'm only 2 weeks out from my show, all Treat meals have been cut out for awhile, so I just tried really hard not to drool on the samples as I walked by. I didn't collect the samples (like I did at the Arnold - yes, I was THAT girl, walking around putting sample pieces in a bag!), because I didn't want to be tempted by them on the way home. I've been struggling a lot lately with the mental aspect of my diet, and it was frustrating not to get to enjoy ANY samples from the show. I chewed a LOT of gum and drank a lot of water all day.

I'm glad we went to the show. It was a great learning experience, and also a fun way to relax. We got to meet a lot of the pros too, which was really cool! The Pittsburgh always has the most guest posers of any show all year, so it was a rush to see most of the top guys all together on stage.

Guest Posers

Jay Cutler and Dennis Wolfe Posedown

And at the expo, we got quite a few pictures with some of our favorites.

Me with Ms. Olympia and Ms. Figure International, Nicole Wilkins Lee

Jerry with 8-time Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman

Me with 3-time and current Mr. Olympia, Jay Cutler

One of the coolest things about the day happened during the evening show. As I was watching the show, a lady came up to me and asked if I'm the writer of the Figure Girl World blog. I said I was, and she introduced herself as someone who reads my blog. Thanks so much for saying hi, Leah! It was so nice to meet you, and I want to thank you for reading what I write. :) I know my blog is on the web, available to everyone, but I never really know who it reaches, and if the words I write touch anyone's lives. I'm so thankful and flattered to have been recognized, and I hope I can at least provide a bit of entertainment for you each day.

It was a great weekend overall! Fun time at the show, and wonderful to visit with my good friends. Now it's back to training ... this is the last week of hard work, and then we'll head back to PA next weekend to dominate the Lehigh stage!