Monday, May 19, 2014

How I Changed My Lifestyle

Me on left in 2005, right before I decided to change my life. Me now on the right. 

Often times I am asked to outline a meal plan for someone because they are looking for help. I get it. I was there before. I actually can't even count how many times I reached out to people who I thought had all the answers. When I was replied to, I was usually given the standard "cookie cutter" plan. 

For example:
Breakfast- Oats, Eggs whites, Grapefruit.
Snack- Almonds
Lunch- Chicken with a spinach salad and a sweet potato
Snack- Protein shake
Dinner- Tilapia with broccoli and sweet potato

Okay, while I KNOW deep within my heart and brain that this is no way to LIVE and learn how to eat for the rest of my life, I couldn't help but think, "well, it worked for her, so it must work for me." 

Well, here's the thing; some people are born with killer genetics, some people have eating disorders, some people are living in pure misery, some people are f*cking liars, and some people don't even know that this road is leading the to a world full of problems. Problems that are so severe that many people need therapy and must work with dietitians to get their body's back to normal. These people have suffered severe hair loss, loss of menstruation, rapid weight gain, and so much more. 

Okay, so what do you do? To be honest, there are many ways to go about a lifestyle change and not one of them is the ONLY way to do things. However, since I have been doing this whole thing since I was 18, have my personal training and nutrition certifications, and hold my Bachelors of Applied Science in Kinesiology, I can offer a decade worth of experience and education. BUT if you are looking for a more scientific evidence approach please take a look at Layne Norton and Bret Contreras's sites. They both offer a lot of peer reviewed articles and both offer a lot of free information out there for my fellow science geeks. What I am going to offer you is an idea of how I have changed my own lifestyle. 

1. I am a stay at home mom, or as my husband calls me, the Chief Operations Officer (COO). Being a stay at home mom, one of my most beloved duties is cooking for my family, but more specifically, dinner. And coming from a background where Italian, Irish, and Mexican food was VERY abundant, you can imagine the meals that come along with that. So, when I was feeling really Martha Stewart-y, I would throw down in the kitchen. For example; tacos (sadly most of the time with pre-packaged seasonings) with homemade spanish rice, refried beans, chips, salsa, guacamole, the works! Being able to deliver a wonderful home cooked meal for those I love brings me so much pleasure in life but NOT so much pleasure to our waist lines. So, what did I do? I altered it! Use ground chicken (I don't really care for ground turkey) or a lean ground beef like bison. Instead of sour cream, use plain greek yogurt for more protein (even mix in a little of your favorite hot sauce!). Use the spices in your cabinet and create your own taco seasoning. This way you will have WAY less sodium and other "stuff" added in to your mix. I usually just use a blend of the following: chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Yep, simple as that! If you really have a taste for beans, have a little side of black beans. I prefer to use Mission tortillas; but sometimes I would rather made a taco salad and load up on my meat and veggies. The main idea here is that I have altered so many of my favorite meals, that it never seems like I'm eating "clean" or "healthy."

2. Drink more water. I know it sounds repetitive and you read it just about everywhere, but seriously, drink more water. Not only does it fill you up but it also aids in weight loss! 

3. You know the saying, "breakfast is the most important meal of the day?" Well, it's true. I used to never eat breakfast due to lack of time management skills and my forgetfulness which I can most likely attribute to my poor diet back in high school. Once I started incorporating a REAL breakfast into my diet (not just a bagel and cream cheese on the go) I started to see serious changes. Instead of falling asleep on my morning "L" train commute, I was vibrant and actually appreciative to take in my surroundings without feeling like a walking zombie. My typical breakfast is a simple protein shake: 1-2 scoops of Optimum Nutrition Whey chocolate protein, 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk,  1/2 of a banana, 1 TBSP peanut butter, and a handful of spinach. Yep, that's it! Simple and freaking delicious! It also happens to be my sons favorite, but he thinks its a "Chocolate Milkshake." If I'm not having that then my breakfast is usually 2 eggs over medium, 3 slices of real bacon, and a side of fruit. Simple, easy, nutritious and really set my energy into high gear for the rest of the day. Oh and how can I forget my Starbucks House Blend Keurig Coffee with 2 Tablespoons of regular cream and 1 teaspoon of pure sugar!

4. Aside from protein which is the hardest for the majority of people to get in their diet, don't forget about fat. Fat actually AIDS in weightloss! It wasn't until I started tracking my macros that I realized I was barely getting in any fat on a daily basis. Of course, if I had a half bag of Doritos I would have NO trouble getting in two days worth of fat, but I'm talking the good stuff. Fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, peanut butter, avocado, nuts, cheeses, and fatty fish (salmon)! Oh the yumminess. Make sure you're getting those babies in. I actually like to use avocado on my sandwiches instead of mayo, or throw some oil and avocado in a steak salad. And truth be told, other than Whey Protein, a fish oil pill is probably the only other supplement I would use. Life and your brain is so much better with healthy fats.

5. Don't make drastic changes. I know it seems hard, especially when you're all gung-ho about finally losing those 10 pounds you gained 10 years ago! Monday rolls around and you're like, "Okay, no cookies, no sugar in my coffee, I am only going to have plain chicken and fish with veggies for dinner, I HATE tuna but I'm going to make myself eat it, I am going to have these two shakes a day with some almonds, I'm going to go on a juice cleanse, I'm never eating chips again, I can't go to Johnny's party because there will be food and alcohol there, I'm not drinking alcohol anymore, instead of drinking my usual 5 cans of pop a day I'm not drinking any, and I will go to the gym twice a day and do an hour of cardio each time." Dear lord, how much more NEGATIVE can it get, right? No wonder Monday never comes, you are setting yourself up for failure. Stop treating yourself so poorly. THIS should actually be number one because I preach this one the most. DON'T STOP EVERYTHING AT ONCE. Repeat after me! You drink 5 cans of pop a day, okay, cut out 2 of them to start. You don't like tuna? Don't eat it! You get an extra large coffee with extra cream and sugar? Order a large next time. You are only doing cardio? Add in some weight training! So you have like 10 beers and like 6 shots when you go out? Have half! You want chips? Eat them, just not the whole bag. This is the concept where we need to understand that moderation is key. THIS concept is what got me to lose my initial 35 pounds back in 2006. 

6. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Do the people in your life place value on their own health? Are they trying to make positive changes? If the answer is no, I urge you to re-think those relationships and to go out there and make new friends. This doesn't mean completely cutting off those important relationships to you, unless they are drowning you. Unless they are the chains that bind you. Let them go and set yourself free. 

These are all certainly beginning steps but these are the ones I feel are most important in building your foundation of a real lifestyle change. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Transformation Continues

Tomorrow I have my 20 week check-in, WHOA! I am excited because I have been lifting my ass off, for real. My main focus has always been to make sure I'm doing something right before I try to make it more challenging. With that being said, my deadlifting really needed some work. So, reluctantly, I scaled back a bit on the weight and worked on my form. Day in and day out, form form form! And now, I'm back up to about 175lbs for 3 reps in my deadlifts.

Anyhow, I have noticed a lot of changes that can't really be seen by an untrained eye, so I decided they were important to talk about. First, I will never ever forget this old lady coming up to me in the gym sometime early last year and saying this to me, "you know, you could be a fitness model, seriously, but your posture is terrible, put your damn shoulders back!" I almost died. But, she was right. Not about the modeling part, even though I was extremely flattered, but about my pathetic posture. The truth is, I NEEDED to improve my posture. So, how do you do that? Through weight training! For the very first time yesterday, I was looking at myself in the window reflection and noticed how nice my posture looked without even trying. My old lady friend would be so proud! But not only that, along with my stronger back has come something even better!

 In 2005-ish I dealt with a strained piriformis and if you've ever had it, you know just how painful it is. I could not walk for nearly 3 weeks. I rested my body and eventually the pain completely disappeared. Well, when I was a senior in college I was finishing up with my athletic training class and realized that my left leg turned outward and was also raised forward when performing squatting exercises. My professor did an examination and we found that my glutes were weak. Weak?!?! HOW?! I workout ALL the time. Okay great, but I wasn't doing things as good as they could have been. As of January 1st I have been doing weighted bridges and hip thrusting like it's my job, that along with some heavy ass deadlifting I believe has struck a cord with my body. I just realized that for the first time I haven't had ANY pain in my left knee. I have in essence been pain free for about 3 months (except for my nasty fall last month, which is an unrelated incident). I have noticed greater stride length when I walk and actual booty contraction when I walk as well! My entire posterior chain has improved dramatically and it's really all thanks to me hiring my coach, Sohee, who has taught me a LOT in the past few months. And I couldn't be more grateful. I've been able to keep my 14 pounds OFF and I am living my life how I always dreamed I could.

The most important LESSON I have learned throughout this process is consistency. It's easy to fall off one day after being "on point" for 5 days and then deciding, "ya know what, I'll just start again next Monday." Or, "I can always just start next month." NO NO NO! This process is not about perfection. It's understanding you are human and come with major flaws and that's okay because when you fall off you have a CHOICE. You have a choice to be better NEXT TIME. You have a choice to CHOOSE to make your next meal have more protein, or to lift heavier, or sprint faster! Whatever the case, consistency is what has gotten me so far. Consistency comes from understanding that the time is going to pass anyways; there are no deadlines.

These changes along with overall major strength increases, more energy, lack of binging, and my fat loss have made this journey rewarding. Understanding that you don't have to take extreme measures to get your life on the track you desire has been the most rewarding part of this all. I can't wait to continue to improve my body on all levels (knowledge, strength, biomechanics, health) for the rest of my life. And I am armed with the tools to do just that.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Zucchini Fiesta

Lately as I've been trying to figure out how to "cure" my carb addiction, I've been making zoodles. Like, a LOT of zoodles. And I love them. No really, I do! 

First, I bought my spiralizer off of Amazon. Best 28 dollars I've ever spent. Well, I think anyways. 

1 pound bison (you can use any ground meat you like)
1 TBSP canola oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 jar of chunky salsa (I like spicy!)
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 TSP Cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 cup of water
2-3 zucchinis (unpeeled) 

Heat oil in pan. 
Sautée onions and when clear, add meat. Cook and add in garlic, spices, and salsa. Mix well and add in water. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Let mixture reduce for about 10-15 minutes depending on your desired level. Lastly, add in spiralized zucchini, mix well, cover and cook for another 5 minutes or until zoodles are softer. 

Bon appetit!

Mothers Day

Today is a day where all moms are celebrated and we are noticed for how well we care for our children, despite everyday challenges. In my house though, I truly feel that I am appreciated every single day. My husband is a man that many women yearn for in the fact that he "gets" me and he "gets" IT. He has never Made me feel inferior or criticized me for my mothering or for my job as a mother. My husband knows that it's important for me to get "me" time and while that may almost always be short-lived, he gets it. My husband has never come home from work and asked my why something wasn't done. He has never claimed his job outside of the home is harder or more important or what provides the life we live. In fact, he can't say enough how hard being a mom is or how proud he is of me or, my personal favorite, "I don't know how you do it." And while I understand that today it's almost impossible for it to be a choice to stay home with your children, sometimes it's a necessity. A necessity because it is expensive to simply just LIVE today, let alone raise a child. I think it's urgent that we take a look around and appreciate all of the hard work that ALL mothers do to take care of their families. That we stop pointing fingers and just accept that we all are just doing the best we can with what we have. 

While many days are excruciatingly hard, others are smooth sailing, and some days I find myself just going with the motions. This is my third year as a mom and I have to say, each year gets more beautifully challenging than the next. More importantly, my fear is most high than anything. Fear that I'm not doing a good enough job, fear of not hitting milestones, fear of my son not appreciating me, and lastly, fear of the real world and the real dangers and unpredictability that comes with just being on earth. Of course I can't let my fear consume me. I can only do my best to live and love life everyday. 

With that, I'd like to take a moment and ask you to keep a woman, a mother, a wife with love so deeply wrapped around her family, Jacqui Saldana in your thoughts and prayers. Jacqui is the mother of Ryan Cruz Saldana, the 3 year old boy who was killed last week after being struck by a car. Ryan was the apple of her eye. He consumed her. He was her air. Her whole world was Ryan. With Ryan now gone and Mother's Day here, I can only pray for some sort of comfort and solice for Jacqui. I want her to know she will ALWAYS be HIS mother. She will always be Ryans mother. So please, just pray for her. 

Lastly, I would like to recognize two women who are near and dear to my heart; my sister, Heather and my mother in law, Pat. They have both been crucial in my evolution as a mother. I'll never forget when my MIL found out we were pregnant. She called me crying with happiness. It was then that I really knew everything was going to be okay. My sister who is a single mom and is a ROCKSTAR each and every day is my best friend. Heather is always there when I need her. She is always there to talk to and have fun with. And without the bond that we both have together, I don't know if we could have made it this far. My MIL and sister love my son to the ends of the earth and it always shows. Johnny has a relationship with the both of them that blows my mind and I know will be unbreakable. My MIL has never criticized me, only encouraged. She raised two outstanding men and I see how much work it took and I appreciate that to the fullest. I can talk to her about anything and she never judges. My sister is one of those people who was just born to be a mom. She has a certain calmness about her whenever she is surrounded by kids. She amazes me every single day and I'm so glad I get to raise my son with her as his God Mother and my niece as his best friend. There isn't a day that goes by where Johnny doesn't ask to see the both of them. The love is pure and I am so lucky to have you both. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Red Balloons for Ryan

The Instagram community has lost one of it's most beautifully captured souls, Ryan Cruz Saldana, the 3 year old son of Jacqui, known as @babyboybakery. Certainly this was a tragic accident and I could never imagine the pain that sweet Jacqui is going through right now. I simply can't wrap my head around the fact that such great sorrow needs to be dealt with by anyone, let alone a mother losing a child. I first began to follow Jacqui because her life seemed very paralleled to mine. She is a mom who oozed with love for her husband and son. She took Ryan everywhere and they were always having fun. Those gorgeous red locks of his could stop you dead in your tracks and I know for certain that he will not be forgotten. The overwhelming outpour of support from the IG community alone shows just how strong we are together. Below I will share a link where you can donate to the family and a link where you can also purchase a shirt where all proceeds go to the family as well.

Although I do not know this family personally, the ability that we have to be so graciously let into other people lives through social media allows us to form a deep bond; especially because we all have something in common, motherhood.

God bless the family.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Week 18 Check In!

Left is January. Right is today. 

It's been 18 weeks since I've been following IIFYM and working with my coach.

I feel liberated. I feel like a real person. I feel like I'm living how I SHOULD be. Not only because I've lost weight; it's actually many things. But, I have lost the weight I've made excuses for. I've lost the emotional weight of meaningless relationships, the physical weight that I've made excuses for because I am a mom and my body changed, the mindless food indulgence when I am stressed or anxious. I have lost so many things and in the process gained some wonderful things as well.

The first 16 weeks were pretty much smooth sailing. Not COMPLETELY, but it was during these 16 weeks that my self control and my brain were tested. I went through a few personal trials, suffered an injury due to a fall, and attended quite a few family functions where normally I would drown myself in sweets and not just drown myself, but completely smother myself in an insane way. I didn't though. I found that inner strength and dedication to find my inner voice and listen to it, rather than stuff it away (or down my throat). If something bad happened, I would find myself searching the cabinets for minutes! It was almost an out of body experience. I could see myself and say, "Jessica, just stop!" But I would just keep searching and searching. So, I stepped away and took a few deep breaths. I let myself feel the pain or anxiety of whatever was going on in the moment and had a conversation with myself on how to figure out how to get passed it. I know I am not the only one who struggles with binging and I know a lot of people don't talk about it or want to talk about it. But, it's real. Food is everywhere! You need it to survive, so it's always there. Which makes it that much harder to overcome. But believe me, you have the strength to do this. And if you feel like you ever are in a bind so bad that you can't help yourself right now, I urge you to reach out to a professional. There are many WONDERFUL people out there who really do want to help you and will give you the tools to channel your energy elsewhere. And if you ever want to talk to me specifically about it, please do! Email me, Facebook me, Instagram me! I will offer you advice the best I can. I know what it feels like to be trapped. To want to be perfect. To feel helpless. But I can promise you, there is so much more to life than being your own prisoner.

These last 4 weeks have been the most challenging for me. Dealing with the loss of my aunt who was like a mother to my siblings and I for a few years was very challenging and extremely sad. Watching her on hospice and not being able to help herself really affirmed to all of us that we needed to rally around her and be there. My sister was a true angel and was with her almost everyday. I guess I didn't want to believe that my sweet auntie Gloria could really be nearing the end of her life. Until, she just wasn't getting better. The first day I walked into the house to go sit with her, she was lying there motionless with her eyes closed. We woke her to tell her I was there. She opened her eyes instantly, looked at me, and smiled. I will never forget that moment. I said there and held her hand for a few hours and really just couldn't grasp the whole thing. I guess I was in denial. Nonetheless, she died about a week after that with all of us surrounding her. I will always appreciate her for the things she did for my family and myself. After that, we went on our annual family vacation which was nice for all of us to spend time together and just get away. I didn't track a thing or workout the whole time (my choice) and it felt nice. When we got home we were still slightly in vacation mode and well, having to celebrate Easter the following day with an Italian family didn't help my self control, ha ha! But it was wonderful! Easter was fantastic and just such a blessing. My knee was still hurting me so bad from my fall two weeks prior so my workouts will still lagging, but I was pushing myself to get back into the swing of things. It's been about 2 weeks since we've been back and I'm finally finding my groove again. Right now I am dealing with some legal issues (I will blog about this more once everything is settled) and some small health issues so I am ready to push ahead and bring in some better numbers for my week 22 check in! I'm still in my fat loss stage and I am aiming to lean up a bit more before Vegas (June!). The wonderful thing that came out of these trying 4 weeks was that I didn't gain anything! My body is finally starting to love itself back!

So, ladies and gents, when you are trying to lose fat, PLEASE do not starve yourself. You are meant to eat. You are just not meant to eat a pound of pasta everyday by yourself. If you need help or are interested in learning more about how to get your life on track without starving, binging, or feeling completely lost, please email me:

Lastly, what I know is my body is not perfect. I know I can be leaner. I know I could be 15 pounds lighter (maybe!). I know this. But the thing is, right now I am happy. I have fought tooth and nail to be healthy and most of all happy and comfortable just the way I am. This is the first time in my whole life where I can look in the mirror and not criticize myself. It's the first time in my life that I am not ashamed to eat in front of people. And most importantly, the first time in my life that I am not ashamed to share my story with the world! Because if I could help just one of you, that means more to me than anything.