Countdown to 40

My fitness and nutrition journey has taken me down a very long and winding road.  Over the years I’ve experimented with different diet and workout protocols which have taught me an incredible amount about my body and overall health. Since the beginning of my fitness journey, while training for fitness competitions, I realized that having an end date was extremely important in keeping me focused and accountable.  Over the years as I moved away from fitness competitions I found I still needed goals or end dates to keep me motivated.  As I'll be turning 40 in November I decided what better goal than to look and feel my best on such a milestone birthday? 

85 Days to 40 

85 Days to 40 

Although I’m still feeling nervous when publishing progress pictures, I really-really hope my on-going transformation story, lessons learned, and road to 40 can help YOU to realize what you are really made of!

I hope that my tips will give you some inspiration and motivation to find your own inner power and realize that with goals, time, effort, and by honoring yourself you can achieve anything you want! I used to think that having a six pack, or getting to certain number on the scale would make me happy, until I got there, and actually felt the same as I did before.  I realized that happiness comes from feeding your body good food, movement, and most of all, loving who you are at every stage you're at is the key.  While, I still have areas I'd like to improve on, I can say that I have a better self-esteem than ever before. Why? I took care of myself!

My brain fog is gone, my skin glows, I’m feeling energized all day, I eat clean, I lift weights, do minimal cardio, and I have muscles and strength: I see my body as strength, beauty and know it will be with me for many years so I want to take care of it.  Achieving and maintaining a healthy and fit body takes time, patience and consistency, but it’s SO worth every day working for it!

Lessons Learned:

1. Consistency
Some weeks I made it to they gym only 3 times, and others, it was 6.  Regardless, I made movement a priority even when I didn't really feel like it.  Get creative when the gym is not accessible!  $5 resistance bands, and $10 skipping ropes are great ways to get in a workout practically anywhere, and at anytime.  

2. ADD in some HIIT
I trained for four fitness competitions doing state cardio, so when HIIT became popular I literally wanted to puke, just thinking about it.  Although walking on a treadmill for up to 45 minutes was a long time, it was easy!  What I learned was that by adding in only 1-2 HIIT cardio sessions per week not only reduces your time performing cardio, but it helps your body burn more fat longer throughout the day.  The other takes practice!  I set weekly goals for myself.  At first my goal was to just get 4 rounds of 20 seconds HIIT, then resting until I recovered.  The next week I added in one more round.  The next week I increased the speed, just one notch at a time.  Baby steps every day, that's it.  

3. Change up the workouts
I started weight training at the age of 16, and learned the old school bodybuilding way.  Lower reps and high weight.  What I learned was that consistently doing the same exercises over and over, along with constantly adding load, kept my body stagnant, and made me REALLY, REALLY sore.  To break through a fitness plateau without killing your body, change it up every 6-8 weeks.  For example, I will work on a progressive overload protocol for 6 weeks, where the goal is to add sets, reps and weight every week.  Then I will take a few weeks to deload, and then start a new and different program.  Making my body guess, and training intensely has been key to my transformation.

4. Focus on quality nutrition
At the beginning of my fitness journey I was more focused on hitting my macro nutrient goals, over consuming high quality, nutrient dense food.  I found myself eating the same handful of foods day in and day out.  I was excluding entire food groups and had no concern over where my foods came from, where they grown, or what chemicals they were filled with.  As a result I was fighting cravings all the time, feeling hungry immediately after eating, and was experiencing severe bloating, digestive distress, and brain fog.  I learned that my body needed more fat to satisfy cravings, more fiber to ensure proper digestion, and that toxic overload from pesticides, chemicals and artificial ingredients leads to hormonal imbalances.  

5. Create clear & track able goals
Creating goals can make the difference between achieving your desired results or not. When I started working out, I just wanted to “lose weight” and “have a flat belly”. When I signed up for my first fitness competition there was an exact end date.  When I paid the deposit for my first photo shoot, that was it.  I had a goal! Accomplishment comes from being consistent over time, to see a goal to the end.  I have kept using this strategy and it still helps me to keep going and stay motivated.

Please don’t ever believe you have to choose a crash diet, stop eating or get obsessed and anxious with food. Losing weight really fast by eating less calories or cutting the carbs is not sustainable or healthy and will hurt your metabolism. Confession: I tried it myself. Lesson learned: cutting calories, and doing excessive cardio made me miserable and set my hormones out of whack! Nowadays I eat a when I am hungry, usually 3-5 times per day.  I realized that if my body and mind are not in a happy place, neither am I.  If fat loss if your goal, give it time and take it slow.  You may not see changes right away, but don't let that discourage you.  Consistent steps, overtime is where the lasting changes occur.  

7. Cheat meals
Ok so cheat meals are a controversial topic in the nutrition space.  Some say they are essential in hitting your fitness goals.  Other say don't do it.  For me, I tried them and always felt terrible afterwards.  Something about eating healthy all week long, then sitting down to a greasy burger and fries, didn't seem right to me at all, nor did it make me feel good afterwards.  I realized that I could eat foods I enjoyed throughout the week, without having to deprive myself all week, awaiting the "Cheat Day!"  If I felt like chocolate, I ate a square of dark 70% or higher, high quality chocolate.  If I wanted some chips, I'd have them.  BUT, in moderation!  

Healthy and fit is something that looks different on everybody but feeling healthy from the inside is universal. My goal for 40 is to be happy, healthy, fit, strong.  






Metabolism and calories – What's the connection?

This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.  You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight.  But what exactly does this all mean?


Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body.  It's how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do. Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive.  And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

●      Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).

●      Allow activities you can't control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).

●      Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”. 

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).  The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

●      Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).

●      Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).

●      Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.  One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you're not being physically active.

The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

In a nutshell: a lot!  The first thing you may think of is your thyroid.  This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism.  Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you'll burn.  But that's not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.  How big you are counts too!   Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial! 

As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be.  Even when you're not working out.

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program.  Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you. 

The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don't want to happen.  So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they're doing “work”.

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).  You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently. 

Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%.  By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow.  By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.

And don't forget the mind-body connection.  There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

Tarrah is an Integrative Nutrition & Health Coach who I works with women (and men) who have busy lives and who don’t have the time to spend hours in the gym and who WANT to be their healthiest, click here to check her out.