I have always struggled with my weight. Even as far back as the first grade I remember my pants fitting too tight and feeling that I was different than the rest of the kids.I was an active kid, but throughout my school years I remained overweight.
I became a vegetarian at age 14 because I thought it would help make me skinny. Most people think that a vegetarian eats only healthy things. Not me. I used my vegetarianism as an excuse to load up on carbs and junk food while eating a few healthy foods here and there. Some of my favorite foods were chips and salsa, crackers, cookies, brownies, pizza, pasta. I was always hungry.
As an adult, I remained active. You’d think that after training for and running two trail marathons that I’d be skinny. No! I proved that you can be very active but still remain overweight. At my heaviest I weighed 200 pounds. Even at my most active, I still weighed 180 pounds. Was there something wrong with me?
I knew I needed to make a change for my family and myself. I was tired of the headaches, stress and just being generally unhappy. My clothes were always tight and I felt unattractive. I was tired of trying on 6 different outfits every morning and then squeezing in to a size 10 when I should have worn a 14. I began to notice that I was taking out my frustration and insecurities on my family and co-workers.
I went to the doctor’s office the first week of February 2015 and weighed in at over 180lbs. I fell not just in the overweight category, but in the obese category! This was not how I wanted to live the rest of my life. I was 39 years old, my kids were growing up, and I was a mess.
The very next day I signed up for MVP Gym’s 12-week Body Transformation Challenge. Immediately I began logging my food into My Fitness Pal. I cleaned out my cupboard and refrigerator leaving only healthy food choices. I told my family that from this day on we were going to start eating healthy as a family. Soon, instead of feeling deprived, I actually was eating more. I ate three meals along with two or three snacks daily. My food plan was really pretty simple. I had a carb and protein at every meal and changed my snacks from brownies to oatmeal protein balls or chips and salsa to fajita veggies and salsa. I worked out with a trainer 3 times each week. Working with a trainer added variety to my workouts and really helped me stay accountable. See Sample 3-Day per Week Introductory Workout sidebar for an example of a week’s worth of workouts at this stage of my transformation.
In 12 weeks I lost 37 lbs, over 11 percent body fat and more than 45 inches. I won the “Challenge” which was nice, but the best part was I WON my life back. It took me 39 years to realize that I could not just work off the processed food that I was eating through exercise. I couldn’t just eat corn chips and brownies and run a marathon to be skinny. In the rest of this article I’m going to give you my specific diet, supplement and training plans, along with tips that I’ve found helpful along the way. I hope that they do as much for you as they have for me and my life!
It took me many, many years to figure out that proper nutrition is far more important than exercise in the fat loss equation. During the last year and a half I realized we should not LIVE TO EAT but instead EAT TO LIVE. And I am here to tell you that once you figure that out, your life may change drastically. Don’t get me wrong—I still get excited about eating. But now my idea of excitement is a plate full of vibrant colors, for example, red cabbage, broccoli, spinach, egg whites and topped off with salsa. I love to go to the grocery store and fill my cart with an array of colors of fruit and veggies.
I now follow Julie Lohre’s eating program which is right in line with Tosca Reno’s “Eat Clean” philosophy. I eat every 2-3 hours and a typical day looks like this:
Meal 1 (Pre early morning workout)
½ scoop UMP mixed with ½ cup Greek yogurt
UMP Pancakes- 1 scoop UMP, 1 egg and 3 whites mixed as a pancake batter with sugar free syrup and ½ banana
2 rice cakes, 2 tsp natural peanut butter
Quinoa and veggie stir fry, ½ cup low fat cottage cheese, salad with vinegar and oil dressing
2 scoops UMP mixed with 2 tablespoons PB2, add water and make a thick pudding, ½ apple
6 oz. salmon, 6 oz. sweet potato roasted in coconut oil, salad greens with salsa
1 scoop UMP blended in ½ cup almond milk with ice
UMP – First thing in the morning before my workout and at night before going to bed. Let me just tell you this, I have never in my life told so many people about one product. When I tell my weight loss journey story- UMP comes into the conversation every time. I LOVE the stuff. It has improved my energy, it’s helped me build muscle, and it tastes great!
Muscle Synergy Powder – 1 scoop pre-workout to help with pump, focus and strength
Lean Out – 2 capsules with meals 1, 3, and 6 to keep my metabolism moving and body burning fat
Density – 3 tablets upon arising, 3 before and 3 after training for muscle development and to help with energy. Density is a must for vegetarians as it helps complete the amino acid profile of incomplete vegetarian protein sources
Complete one set of 12 reps for each of the exercises listed below on a particular day. Then go through the list 2 more times until you have completed 3 full circuits in each workout.
Sample 3-Day per Week Introductory Workout
Day 1-Chest, Arms and Abs Circuit
Incline Bench Press
Incline DB Chest Flye
Push- Ups off Ball (feet on the ball and hands on the floor)
Tricep Dips off Bench
DB Bicep Curls arms all the way down to the side and back
Plank Knee to Elbows (up to 20 reps each)
Day 2- Legs and Abs Circuit
Glute Bridge Raise (no weights just to get your hips moving)
Reverse Lunge with DB
V-ups (for abs)
Step-ups (alternate legs each rep – do 12 with each leg)
Jump Squats (work up to 15 reps with a weighted ball)
Day 3- Shoulders, Back and Abs Circuit
Front Raises with Plate
Tricep Extension with Plate
Pull-ups (assisted or unassisted pull ups)
Bentover Row with Plate
Superman Holds for Abs
After all 3 circuits are completed; end with 20 minutes of high intensity cardio.
My Current Workout to Build Muscle while Staying Lean
Monday: Back and Legs
Bentover Row 3x12
Wide grip Pull-ups 3 sets (as many as I can)
1-Arm Row 3x8-12
Kettlebell Swings 3x10
Sumo Squats with heavy DB 3x8-12
BB Squats 3x8
Walking Lunges 3x12
60 yard loaded sled push
Tuesday: Chest and Shoulders
Bench Press 3x8
DB Flyes 3x12
Incline Bench Press 3x10
Incline DB Flyes 3x12
DB Front Raises*
Front Raise 3x12
* Extended sets: I start with 15lb dumbbells, then down to 12’s, and finally 8’s all to failure with no rest
Wednesday: Cardio (20 minutes)
Thursday: Legs and Shoulders
Glute Bridges Raises (to warm up hips) 3x15
Step-ups with heavy DBs 3x15
DB Side Squats 3x15
DB Press 3x15
DB Press Pulses 3x15 (hands to the front and elbows together perform short, fast pressing movements) Standing Glute Kickback (tuck a DB behind one knee and squeeze to keep it in place, then kick your bent leg back and up to really get those glutes to fire. Do 3x12 for each side.
Friday: Back, Arms and Shoulders
Lat Pulldown 3x12
DB Row 3x12
Chin-ups (3 sets as many as I can)
Plank Knee to Elbow (3x12)
Bicep Curl 3x12
Tricep Dip 3x12
Front Raises with Plate 3x12
DB Front Raises*
* same extended sets as Tuesday (15lbs down to 8lbs)
Note: My favorite body parts to train are legs and glutes. Probably because during my overweight years I was so pear shaped. My bottom half was always so large. It is fun for me to do kettlebell swings, hip thrusts, side lunges, and back squats. I know these exercises helped me transform my body from pear shaped and hippy to the body it has become today. I also like to end my leg workouts with a couple of sprints pushing a weighted sled.
During my weight loss challenge I did a lot of cardio including running and boot camp type classes. This usually averaged out to 30-60 minutes of cardio, 6 days a week. But after my initial weight loss, I realized I needed to build muscle and cardio became less important. At present I participate in a one-hour Warrior’s Training class at my gym on Tuesday and Friday mornings. It includes a lot of sprinting for speed training and also helps develop strength, endurance and flexibility. I may do cardio one other day (usually Wednesday) where I use the stair climber for 15-20 minutes.
You cannot out train a bad diet! Diet is over 80% of the equation for fat loss while exercise is 20% or less. Diet comes first and then the rest just falls into place. You have to get your eating under control to get the results you desire. If you want abs, crunches will not cut it alone. Eat right first and the abs will follow.
First thing every morning—drink 2 huge cups of water. This gets things moving and starts your day out right. I personally swear by this regimen
Log your food. This helps hold you accountable from day one. Once you see the number of calories in a favorite food, you might think twice before eating it. For example, instead of the calories in a cookie, you can eat an entire plate of veggies dipped in salsa along with ½ cup of cottage cheese, or you could have an apple with 2 rice cakes and peanut butter
You should not LIVE TO EAT but instead EAT to LIVE.
Find a trainer to help keep you accountable. I found Julie Lohre online.
Get a Fitbit to keep your body moving. Don’t let your day be done until you have reached at least 10,000 (10k) steps. Park furthest out in the parking lot, walk the long way around the grocery store, take a walk during your lunch break. Do whatever you can to get those 10k steps in each day
It’s now been 18 months since I started my body transformation journey. Since then I have been able to keep off the weight while building much more muscle. I could not have done it without my family and my gym, MVP in Rockford, Michigan. Julie Lohre has been a huge help during the building muscle – competition prep portion of my journey. She has shown me that building muscle and maintaining weight is NOT about NOT eating. It is about eating the correct proportions of protein, carbohydrates, and fat throughout the day.
What I love most about my transformation is SHARING my story. I believe God helped me on my journey so that I might inspire others to improve their lives. It took me 39 years for clean eating and working out to come together for me. If I can do it, I know you can too! So many people want to lose weight and get fit and healthy, but they don’t know how to start. You just need to wake up one day and make the decision to change your life. Once you do, you will find that you’ll NEVER want to turn back.
Recipe Coconut Energy Balls
I always loved to bake and eat brownies. Now, these are my go-to for something sweet and healthy!
¼ cup oats
1 scoop UMP vanilla
2 tablespoons honey
1 tsp almond extract
½ cup natural peanut butter
½ cup unsweetened coconut
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2-3 tsp of mini chocolate chips
Mix and roll into balls and place in the refrigerator