6-Pack Abs & Pancake Boobs: Lessons From My Life as a Fitness Competitor

I have 11 days left until I hit the stage for the 3rd year in a row at Fitness New England in Connecticut. If you've been following my journey, you know I've been in this fitness competition game since 2011 and I've enjoyed MOST of it. The last few weeks of competition prep are by far the hardest...my food choices are limited, I'm not drinking alcohol, and I'm working out (and practicing my routine) almost every day. There are some days when I just want to give up, but last week I realized that I've learned many lessons about weight loss, dieting, and life from this experience, so today, I'm going to share a few of them with you.

Lesson #1: Fat is NOT the enemy

When I was a professional dieter back in the day, "fat-free" food was my life. Fat-free yogurt, milk, cookies, salad dressing...the list goes on and on. Like many people, I truly believed that fat-free food would lead to a fat-free body...and that was NOT the case. Most fat-free, processed foods are low quality, sugar-filled, flavor-free concoctions that don't help you lose a pound. 

It turns out that fat is actually GOOD for you because they improve the appearance of your hair, skin, and nails...oh, and they can also help you with weight loss. When I started eating avocados, coconut oil, walnut oil, and sesame oil, my life was forever changed. Finally, I was way more satisfied after eating a salad tossed with sesame oil instead of a big white blob of fat-free ranch. One more thing...the next time you make some fresh air-popped popcorn, drizzle some avocado oil on it. Once you taste it, you'll wonder why you ever used butter.

Lesson #2: Going to extremes is a recipe for disaster

Competition prep is the PERFECT breeding ground for extreme behaviors: severely restricting food before a show, then going balls out and eating everything in sight when the show is over. Many competitors live like this and think it's ok because they "know how to get in shape quickly". This extreme behavior wreaks havoc on your body, mind, and spirit. After a few rounds of this nonsense, your body stops responding, you become depressed, you start binge eating, then the cycle just repeats itself. The truth is that you don't have to be a fitness competitor to know what this feels like. If you're a serious player in the chronic weight loss game, you've probably been here once or twice. 

The solution: treat yourself and your body well ALL YEAR LONG. I discovered that taking care of my body consistently (translation: no extreme diets, eating food that makes me happy, doing exercise I love, and resting) gave me the BEST results ever.  When you LOVE yourself, your body tends to love you back...it's funny how that works. 



 Lesson #3: Your ideal weight may not be what you think it is

Ok, I used to have a number or a range of numbers in my head that I wanted, prayed, and hoped would be my "ideal weight" (a.k.a. the weight that would make me happy). For YEARS, I believed that, since I'm only 5'3", I should weigh between 125-130 pounds. Makes sense, right? And for YEARS, I chased those numbers only to NEVER be able to sustain them longer than a few months. WTF??

It turns out that my TRUE ideal weight (a.k.a. the weight that makes my body happy) is closer to 140. Here's a picture of me from a few days ago and I'm 127 pounds. I know I can't sustain this weight because of what I've had to do (limited food choices, more exercise than usual) to get here. It looks good, but it doesn't FEEL good and I'm all about feeling good.

So what does this mean for you? Think about the number in your head that you keep chasing...where did it come from? A chart in the doctor's office, a magazine, the internet?? Find out where you AND your body are the happiest and healthiest...THAT, my dear, is your ideal weight.  

Lesson #4: Don't waste your time trying to spot-reduce 

For years, I thought that if I could find the perfect exercise to get rid of my back rolls, everything would be alright. Needless to say, I never found that exercise because it doesn't exist. If you've ever said to yourself "I want to keep my {insert favorite body part}, but I just want to lose the fat off my {insert your least favorite body part}", then pay close attention to what I'm going to say: Body fat comes and goes whenever and wherever it damn well pleases.

The first year I trained for a competition, I was SO excited that my back rolls were melting and I could start to see lines in my abs! But after a while, I noticed that my bras were getting bigger and it looked like someone had let the air out my boobs (pictures NOT included). I called my coach in a panic to tell her what her competition prep was doing to my beloved breasts. She just laughed and said "This is what happens when you lose body fat. What? Do you want me to buy you some new bras??".  

So what does this mean for you? If you're in hot pursuit of tight 6-pack abs, pancake boobs could be a very unpleasant side effect.

These were just a few of the many lessons I've learned over the past 3 years. Stay tuned for some more good stuff next week as I head into my FINAL week of competition prep before the big show.

If you know someone else who could benefit from my experience, please SHARE this post with them.

Until next week!

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Why I Can NEVER Eat at IHOP Again

I haven't been inside an IHOP (International House of Pancakes) restaurant in over 10 years. Just the thought of going inside makes my stomach turn because it was my favorite place to go when I want to eat my feelings or suppress my stress back in pharmacy school. During each visit, day or night, here's what I had: 4 pigs in blankets, a side of 4 sausage links (if you're counting, yes, that's 8 pieces of sausage), a side of hash browns, and I washed it all down with a big ol' glass of chocolate milk.  My weekly trips to IHOP marked the birth of what I like to call "my second stomach", an imaginary organ that allowed me to justify continued eating long after my real stomach was overflowing.

The memories of gorging on a day's worth of calories in one sitting is why I can't even walk inside of an IHOP restaurant.

Like most Americans, hunger wasn't the only reason I chose to shove food (and lots of it) down my throat back in the day. Boredom, stress, anxiety, sadness, happiness, loneliness were all reasons for me to chow down even if my body was telling me it didn't need any food. Actual hunger was rarely a reason for me to eat. Crazy, right?

One of the reasons I ate when I wasn't hungry was because food is so damn convenient…it is EVERYWHERE. You have to work really hard to avoid food in America. Combine that with the fact that many people (especially women) eat their feelings instead of dealing with them directly. 

The result: we override our natural, human instincts around hunger and fullness.

Years of unsuccessful weight loss attempts made me feel like my body had betrayed me over and over again, so of course I didn't trust it to tell me when I was hungry or full.

You know what? When you don't trust your God-given, built-in portion control system, you find yourself handcuffed to the dieting struggle...and you can't find the key. How did I ignore what my body was telling me? Keep reading:

1. Oral distractions: Thankfully, I NEVER bought any of those over-the-counter drugs  or "supplements" to control my appetite, but I did brush my teeth, chew gum, or drinks lots of water when any little sign of hunger showed up in hopes that my appetite for food would just go away so I could be SKINNY! So silly. Here's a question for you: Would you do anything to suppress your libido? If your answer is no, then you shouldn't suppress your appetite either.

2. Eating inside your head:  I was so fixated with rigidly obeying a list of "can and can't have" foods that I couldn't hear what my body really wanted. Closely regulating and monitoring my food sent me into obsessive behavior...I felt like I was imprisoned by something that should have been pleasurable. Misery. 

3. Food for feelings: Sadness, anxiety, and boredom was always code for "I need to eat something"...at least that's what I thought. My unwillingness or inability to deal with emotions in a productive way led me to the cookie jar on several hundred occasions. It turns out that I WAS hungry for something...it just wasn't food. 

Stay tuned next week for the steps I took to start listening to my body and finally ending the weight loss/weight gain drama that followed me for decades.  

I told my story, now it's your turn. How have YOU ignored your hunger and fullness? Let's hear it in the comments section below. 

How to Get the MINDSET You Need for the BODY You Want

I'm about 6 weeks away from my next competition, so my meal plan changes slightly each week so that I can SLOWLY lose body fat and be super lean for the stage. Even though I'm training and eating to attain a completely unsustainable physique that is incompatible with REAL LIFE, I have a mindset that gets me through it without feeling miserable or deprived.  Do you want to know the Top 5 mindsets that are keeping you in a constant battle to lose weight? Well, check out my video and learn how you can start to SHIFT them.

It's taken me a couple of years of practice and paying attention to my thoughts to finally make a permanent shift so that I could have FREEDOM and PEACE around food and my body. But that's after being BRAINWASHED for decades to believe that losing weight had to be an endless struggle and that I wouldn't be truly happy until I dropped 20 pounds. 

If you can relate to what's in the video, I'd love to hear from you. Come on over to my blog and tell me:

What mindset do YOU need to shift to get the results you want?

Oh, I almost forgot. Stay tuned next week for a 2-part (or maybe 3) series I'm doing on how to be more "human" with your eating. Don't worry if that doesn't make sense right now...you'll understand what I'm talking about when you read it!


The TRUTH About Transformation

It's time to get REAL about what it takes to transform your body AND your mind. I would be doing you a disservice if I told you that it's all about what you eat and how much you exercise. You know that's NOT the answer to true transformation.

In fact, the answer is not in any diet book, on a fitness website, or in the latest workout DVD. The answer to true transformation lies within YOU.

In this new video, I'm sharing how I found the answer within ME and made a complete transformation of my body and my mind. 

Check it out and contact me to start your own transformation today!


Wishing you wellness,

Melissa signature