Q&A with WBFF competitor Jade Martin…

This is the first in a series of posts that will profile the members of Team Fit Starts Here as they come into the final weeks before the WBFF Nova Scotia on May 25th. This group of amazing women have been working their butts off (literally) under the guidance of coach, team-sanity-keeper and WBFF Bikini Pro, Krissy Adams-Schofield.

First up is Jade Martin!

Read the article in PDF format or read on in text format (which is not nearly as exciting :P) …

Continue reading

The one where reality bites…

I haven’t blogged much lately, sorry about that. I’ve been working pretty hard though, spending a lot of time training, posing, eating and training some more. I’ve been struggling with a cold the last week-and-a-half but despite that I have been having some amazing workouts and really felt as though I was starting to see significant differences in my physique.

It’s hard to look at yourself and remember how you got to where you are. A lot of my focus has been on where I need to be and I forgot about the places I had to go to get here. I took the opportunity to remind myself of just how hard I’ve worked and how far I’ve come the other day when I put these photos side-by-side:

Progress

I’ve worked really hard to get from the picture on the left to the picture on the right and when I was putting that little collage together I thought wow, I can do this, nothing is going to stand in my way. Life has a funny way of throwing you curve balls when you least expect them, though.

I went to work on Wednesday and found out I no longer have a job due to restructuring. At first I thought it’s fine, I’ll just have a bunch of free time to spend at the gym, I’m going to be in awesome shape for my show in just six short weeks. Then the harsh reality set in and I realized that despite my free time, I am now without an income. Fitness is an expensive hobby and competing is not a small investment. I have been saving money for a year just for this show and I had a little bit put away to pay for things like my bikini, evening gown, registration fees, posing classes, hair/makeup, etc but that money now needs to go to things like food, rent, bills and getting my life back on track.

I made a tough decision yesterday that I won’t be stepping on stage next month. My priorities have to change. It doesn’t mean I never will. Heck, who knows, maybe I’ll be in a better position to do a show later this year – anything could happen. I’m still going to be at the WBFF Atlantic Championships on May 25th, cheering on every single beautiful lady from my Fit Starts Here team who I am happy to call my friends and fitfam. I can’t wait to watch you all compete. Look out though, next year I’ll be coming for ya… 😛

I need to thank all the people who have supported me up until this point. Please don’t stop because I’m probably going to need you now more than ever. I’m going to use this time as I reorganize my world to keep eating clean, keep training and come out of this a better me than I was when I went into it. I guess I just wasn’t ready to stop calling myself Fatty quite yet… <3

The one I stole from Abbie…

One of my favourite blogs right now is Ready.Set.Fit! by my new friend and teammate Abbie. She’s a brilliant writer, hilarious and I would highly recommend that everyone read her blog (as soon as you’re done reading mine, of course :P)

Given that we are new friends we are going through the getting-to-know-you phase of our relationship. Given that we are both training for the WBFF Atlantic Championships in just 10 short weeks… most of what we know about each other somehow involves food or supplements. Mostly food.

I was reminded of some of our most recent text conversations when Abbie posted the gem, Foods I Used to Love but Now Hate (and Vice Versa) so I decided to write a companion piece with observations of my own changing tastebuds.

Like Abbie, I’m not a picky eater. Unlike her, I’ve never cared much about food. Sweets? Yes. Real food? Notsomuch. My family has always been really big on snack food. We ate relatively well at meals but there was always dessert, then snacks after dessert.

I vividly remember being a child and playing outside with my friends. I decided I wanted a Fruit Roll-Up so I went inside and asked my mother, who was napping with a migraine at the time, if I could have one. She didn’t reply so I bugged her incessantly until she replied “Eat the whole box, I don’t care.” So I did. That became a theme through the rest of my life which continues today. I have no ability to have some, put it away and enjoy a little more at another time. When I get something, I eat it all, even if that means eating a dozen cookies in one sitting. Or a cake. Or a litre of ice cream.

I never had that relationship with food though. More often than not I would get BORED of eating whatever dinner was on my plate before I got a chance to finish it. Food still bores me today so I don’t care if the food itself is boring. I think that is what has helped me with my competition diet.

In spite of that, I have had an opportunity to try a lot of new (healthy) foods through this process and figured out some of the things I thought I wouldn’t like and actually do and some of the foods I’m happier without that I used to love.

I will point out at this point that Abbie’s list of hates includes some of my most loved items (celery, mustard, chicken and lettuce) while her list of loves are some of my most hated (seasonings, eggplant, milk products). I’ve never really cared about alcohol so we do have that in common.

Things I always thought I loved but now I hate (as stolen from Abbie):

Salad dressing. I used to never eat salad without a pool of dressing at the bottom of the plate. Now I can’t stand it. Occasionally, I will throw on a splash of vinaigrette for a change (and I do love balsamic vinegar) but all-in-all I’m happier to just have vegetables.

Lobster. I will probably be publicly shamed in my community for admitting this but I don’t think I like lobster anymore. I recently picked up a lobster at the grocery store to have for dinner and I was quite excited because I hadn’t had one in a while. It wasn’t good. The meat sat heavy in my stomach and I just don’t care for the taste of it anymore.

Rice. I used to eat rice on its own as a meal. Just a big bowl of rice. It really doesn’t interest me anymore.

Pasta. See above.

Things I never knew I loved until now:

Mango. I had never tried a mango and I will admit that figuring out how to cut one was daunting but once I had one I realized I was missing an amazing fruit experience.

– Avocado. This was another situation where not having a sweet clue of how to cut it made me stay away. A friend of mine showed me how to cut an avocado one day while she was making a salad but it was another four years before I ever tried one. They’re pretty good!

– Tuna. My mother hates tuna and always reinforced a dislike of it into my mind, also. As a kid I didn’t have tuna salad sandwiches, I had salmon salad sandwiches. I still prefer canned salmon to canned tuna but I’ve grown to like it – especially mixed with avocado!

I’m sure there’s other things I could add to these lists. Ultimately though, make my food as boring as possible. Give me something plain and I’m a happy camper. I don’t need my food to be fancy, the fewer the ingredients the happier the Julia.

Thanks Abbie for the great idea and I look forward to stealing ideas from you in the future. (Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery or something like that… lol)

The one about the numbers…

I’ve mentioned on this blog countless times that a lot of what happens when you walk into the gym is not mental, but rather psychological. It’s all a game of numbers and how your mind interprets them.

For example, my workout this morning was triple sets (three exercises done in succession followed by a break). I do six sets of 15 reps per exercise.

You might think that the first set is the easiest and the last the hardest. After all, that would be reasonable given the physical demand on your body. It’s not really the case though. At least, not for me.

Set one: the ‘oh-this-might-actually-be-hard’ set. You feel fresh going into it but your muscles don’t really know what to expect and you quickly realize that things will not be as fun as you had originally expected.

Set two: the ‘I-can-do-this’ set. Now your muscles are warmed up after the first set and you know what to expect so the second set is often one of the easier ones. You’re getting into the swing of it now and feeling pretty strong.

Set three: the ‘this-is-getting-hard’ set, also known as the ‘am-I-really-only-half-way?’ set. Mentally, the third set is my most challenging. At this point it’s starting to get physically tasking, your muscles are getting tired and, even though you know you have to push past the discomfort, it’s damn HARD. At the same time you’re doing the mental math and realizing that after this set there’s still three more JUST LIKE IT still to come.

Set four: the ‘only-two-more-after-this’ set. The third set is out of the way and now the finish line is within view. You’re tired but you have a sudden motivation to power through and get the job done.

Set five: the ‘am-I-done-yet’ set. You used up way too much motivation on set four, now you’re just exhausted. There’s only one more set after this one though so you might as well just get it done.

Set six: the ‘is-that-all?’ set, otherwise known as the ‘I-could-do-another’ set. The sixth set often times feels very similar to the second set. The boost of adrenaline that comes with knowing that you’re almost done, coupled with the fact that you probably didn’t give it 110% in set five, comes with enough power to destroy the final set – like a boss. This set is usually accompanied by overconfidence, luring you into thinking that you could do a seventh set if you wanted to. You can’t though. Really. Just don’t try it. It’s painful.

Ultimately, the lesson to be learned from the numbers game is that we all feel really uncomfortable at times but it’s about pushing past the mental discomfort to find the spot where you start to feel like you’re in total control. In other words, don’t let set three break you because set six feels awesome.

The one about gym folk…

My favourite time to go to the gym is early in the morning. Sure, it means getting up at 4:45 a.m. but it means that by the time I go to work I’ve already got my strength training and half of my cardio for the day completed. The other reason I like to go early (I’d go earlier if the gym was open, to be honest) is because of the gym folk.

Getting to the gym that early requires a certain amount of dedication and planning. Most people need to be at work so they don’t have time to mess around in the gym. They get in, they get out and they don’t get in my way. That’s the way I like it.

Recently though, I’ve been going to the gym at odd times (for me) and I’ve encountered people that are very different from my regular early morning crew. I’ll preface by saying I know it’s not nice to judge but there’s less than 13 weeks until I (hopefully) hit the WBFF stage and I just don’t have time to waste when I get into the gym. The following types of people have found their way onto my list of pet peeves:

The Meathead : Okay, you have huge muscles. Good for you. That doesn’t mean you get to hog the mirror while you check yourself out. Also, lifting super heavy while sacrificing any semblance of form does not make you look cool … quite the opposite, in fact. The worst habit that I notice with The Meathead? They pile plates onto bars then walk away from them and leave someone else to clean up their mess. Thanks, guys.

The Barbie-Weight Aficionado : The female opposite of The Meathead. A good example would be on Saturday when a woman expressed to me that she found it frustrating that all the mirrors are in the “men’s section”. I asked what she meant and she explained that the “men’s weights” (i.e. dumbbells over 10-pounds) were all over by the mirror, while the “women’s weights” (i.e. dumbbells under 10-pounds) were not. Surely, the reason for this couldn’t be that the smaller weights are more mobile and therefore easier to carry over to the mirror/benches? Women are not restricted to the Barbie weights, ladies.

The Chatters : There are a few different types of Chatters, all of them are equally as annoying. There seems to be a trend for young people to go to the gym, sit down on some mats (in the most inconvenient spot possible), play with their phones and chat. These people also come in a middle-aged variety and will typically be found standing in front of machines or dumbbell racks catching up.

The Crowders : There’s 25-feet of available space, why do you have to be 2-feet away from me? It seems that every time I find a nice, quiet, open space and set up my stuff in it other people get jealous of my super cool area and want to be in it, too. My gym has windows that overlook the pool area and quite often people will just stand and look out the windows. Tonight I found my little area, a cozy little corner to myself, and suddenly a guy walked over, stood ON my mat (where my head had just been) so he could lean against the window and watch his kids in swimming lessons. Why you gotta be in my space, bro?

The Creeper : If any man wonders why women’s gyms exist – it’s this guy. There’s a fellow at my gym (for the sake of this story let’s call him Ben) who latches on to every woman in decent shape. Ben lurks around while you’re doing squats to give you “tips” about form, stands next to the glute kickback machine to tell you about how much he lifts, goes to great lengths to convince you to go down to the sauna with him, whines if you don’t do cardio on the machine next to him and just makes everyone feel uncomfortable. Ben once came up behind me while I was doing deadlifts and tried to rest his water bottle on my ass because he “thought it was a shelf”. I’m not laughing, Ben. You’re 15 years older than me and I wouldn’t be caught dead in the sauna with you. Go away.

I could most definitely add to this list, but these encompass my most loathed gym folk. I’m sure they’re all great people when they’re at home (except for Ben maybe…) but they’re not the most courteous when they step into the gym. I have a plan when I walk in those doors and no one is going to slow me down! (Sorry.)

The one about carbs and the countdown…

There are a few choice phrases that I have thrown around a couple of times a week for the past month or so:

“Ugh, I feel awful.”

“I have zero energy.”

“I need a nap.”

“I want to eat all of the things.”

One thing all those phrases have in common? High-carb day.

Wait, what?! HIGH carb day?!

Typically, those would be the sentiments of fitness competitors in the midst of cutting back on their carbohydrates, longingly watching as their precious oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa and brown rice are diminished by yet another 1/4 cup.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past couple of months is that I am a person that functions better on very few carbs. This wasn’t a complete surprise to me, to be honest.

Years ago (high school-era) I had a lot of issues with allergies. I was checked over by an allergist who found that I have a slew of environmental allergies but although digestion issues continued to plague me, I was not having an allergic reaction to any foods so we couldn’t quite pinpoint what the issue was.

Based on the recommendation of the allergist, my parents then took me to a Naturopath to test for sensitivities that a traditional scratch test wouldn’t pick up. The process was somewhat tedious – beginning with an elimination diet that left me restricted to mostly rice and oranges for weeks.

Both my parents have severe food allergies (citrus fruits on one side, shellfish on the other) but the more common foods were quickly ruled out. Through the process of eating different things and monitoring my reaction to them the Naturopath determined that one of the major foods that I am sensitive to is yeast.

For years I experienced extreme lethargy, low energy and difficulty concentrating through the day. As it turned out, the culprit was bread (I wasn’t much of a beer drinker as a teen :P). Cutting foods with yeast out of my diet was life-changing. My head was suddenly less cloudy, my grades improved and I finished my last year of high school with honours for the first time since I started. All because I stopped having toast, sandwiches, pizza, etc.

Other foods that I am sensitive to include apples, olives (I have a reputation in my family for always throwing up after holiday dinners – olives, we later discovered, were behind it), lactose and most forms of alcohol. Removing these elements from my diet was somewhat easy and once they were gone I was amazed by how much better I felt. In some ways, I hadn’t even realized I didn’t feel well until I felt better.

That is the same experience I’m having with carbs right now. My previous meal plans have always included the brown rice, quinoas and sweet potatoes of the world and I always assumed that the way I felt after I ate them was just the way I was supposed to feel -I was just digesting, it was from my intense amount of training or even all in my head. I wasn’t losing weight or body fat, I felt bloated and too-full all the time and above all, I felt HUNGRY. Ravenously hungry. All the time. That lead to the half dozen times (which I’ve mentioned on here) that I found myself “off the wagon” and shoving my face full of whatever I could find.

Since the end of January my meal plan has changed and my only carbs are a 1/4 cup of oats right after my morning workout. I never realized how terrible I felt before until now because I feel great. I won’t deny craving junk food, or even having had slip ups out of boredom and over-accessibility, but my physical cravings are non-existent. I don’t spend all day thinking about eating, I’m satiated until my next meal.

Leg days are supposed to be my “high-carb” days where I incorporate those foods back into my diet and if I were to make a confession… I’ve only actually had one in four weeks. I feel like crap every time so I’d just rather not. I guess that makes me one of the few people that will happily clean their plate of vegetables and meat then ask if someone wants their potatoes.

Ultimately it comes down to how I feel – if I don’t feel good then I’m not going to do it. It’s a pretty simple way of looking at most “diets” that are marketed these days. If they make you feel bad then stop doing it. Just don’t take that advice when you’re in the gym, otherwise no one would ever do another burpie ever again… 😛

PS: Tomorrow marks 13 weeks until I hit the WBFF stage and I still have a lot of improvements left to make. Here’s hoping that being the anti-carb ends up being the best thing my stomach ever decided for me.

Product review: QuestBar

I the pleasure of once again volunteering at the OptiMYz Live Health Expo this year. (Check out last year’s fun here) Much like last year I found myself scoping the vendors out for products that I could review.

I had heard of Quest bars only because they’re the only type of pre-packaged protein bar that is allowed in my meal plan. Not really being the type to spend money (that I don’t really have) on a $3-$5 snack, I generally have opted for things like almonds and cottage cheese as reasonable protein snacks and avoided buying the Quest bars.

That being said, I happened upon a vendor from Nutrition Excellence at OptiMYz Live. The incredibly friendly sales rep, Joel, had brought along some of the brands that they represent and distribute around the country, including those from Quest Nutrition. The temptation to nab a couple of Quest bars was too strong and I ended up buying an entire box of 12 (various flavours) for $25.

I didn’t really know what to expect as I have eaten a lot of really crappy tasting protein bars in the past that did little for me nutrition-wise. These are fairly well known for being one of the few/only bars on the market that are low-carb, sugar-free, high-fibre, high-protein and gluten free. I also knew that Coach Krissy would never have allowed me to eat them (or would eat them herself) if they were the same filler-laden crap on grocery store shelves. That doesn’t say much for the taste though. If anything, the fact that they are “better” for you only seemed to make me think they’d taste like old socks.

Quite the contrary.

If there’s anything I regret is that I didn’t introduce these beauties into my diet sooner. They have become an amazing way to battle the mid-afternoon munchies and all day I look forward to having my 3 p.m. QuestBar!

It's a picture of a wrapper because the contents inside never stay in there long enough for a photo...

It’s a picture of a wrapper because the contents inside never stay in there long enough for a photo…

In case you can’t read that, the nutrition information is as follows:

Calories: 160
Fat: 5g
Carbs: 25g
Fibre: 17g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 20g

So far I’ve tried the Chocolate Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownie flavours, with Strawberry Cheesecake on deck for tomorrow. The only problem I would say is that I’m going to burn through them so quickly that it’s not terribly affordable for anyone on a budget to eat these consistently. Sad face.

I am willing to change my budget around to try and fit them in though because I might be obsessed. So many protein bars are either sickly sweet, leave an unpleasant aftertaste or just taste… old. QuestBars have a really rich taste that actually tastes like what it says on the package. It’s a soft bar that is practically melt in your mouth and it’s a really decent size so you can make it last for a while.

By far, one of the best purchases I’ve made in a while.

Here’s another couple of crappy photos from OptiMYz Live that I snapped with my terrible camera phone. You should probably just go buy some QuestBars instead though…

This was the cutest thing ever! This little kid was giving it as hard as he could, too!

This was the cutest thing ever! This little kid was giving it as hard as he could, too!

The one about Lance…

It may seem cliche to even bring this topic up at this point but what would a fitness blog be without a post about Lance Armstrong?

Admittedly, I didn’t watch his appearance on Oprah. I knew I would hear plenty about what he said in the days after it aired, which I did.

Armstrong has been publicly crucified for daring to “taint” the precious sport of cycling by taking performance enhancing drugs. Well, newsflash, cycling was already full of dopers when Lance Armstrong first jumped onto the saddle. The difference was that no one in the States actually gave a crap about cycling save for European ex-pats.

Continue reading

The one where fatty had a birthday…

I can’t believe I forgot about the blog’s birthday! Shame on me.

New Years resolutions aren’t really my thing (I don’t feel compelled to wait for a certain date to set a goal) but in 2011 I decided that I was going to start up a blog and write about the things that interest me the most – fitness, nutrition, health, bodybuilding and my personal journey from keen observer to active participant.

I feel like I’ve come a long way since this blog started. I’ve gone through a lot of changes in my personal life and just as many changes in my “fitness life”. As far as body composition, I’m actually not too far off from where I was last year but I have learned more than I ever expected I would. I’m so much more knowledgeable about my own health, the way I eat, the things I do when I walk into the gym. I feel stronger and more empowered overall. I also made a tough decision last year to switch trainers. I left a trainer that I had been with since I was 21 years old, which wasn’t easy. I miss seeing Cathy but I have loved my experience with Krissy so far and can see sticking with her for a long time to come (so long as she’ll have me.)

Time for a little reflection…

Continue reading