Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What I'm Thankful For This Year

As the Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaches, I've been thinking quite a bit about gratitude. I honestly cannot believe 2015 is coming to a close - it seems the older I get, the faster the years whiz on by. There have definitely been some highs and lows over the past year, so I decided to embark on a gratitude journey - appreciating all of the lessons I've learned over the past 11 months. If you haven't tried a gratitude exercise, I encourage you to do so. Studies and research show practicing gratitude improves your physical and psychological health as well as overall self-esteem and mental strength. 

So let's flip the script and cultivate gratitude this holiday season rather than succumb to complaining about holiday mall traffic, being the only single one at the family holiday dinner table, or whatever else may be weighing on you as the season quickly approaches.

2015, thank you for:

My New Home
I mean, look at this beautiful spa-like bathroom! :) 






In all seriousness, I was blessed with the ability to purchase a beautiful new home this year. One in which I was able to re-design essentially from the ground up. I had so much fun working with a skilled contractor gutting nearly 75% of my 1960s ranch-style home. Some of my favorite touches? My all-white kitchen, 7 ft island perfect for entertaining, huge dining room which will be hosting my very first Thanksgiving, a beautifully feminine bedroom complete with an adorable chandelier that hangs over my bed, nearly an acre of peaceful, private land... and the list goes on. 

Phenomenal Friends
Boy have I been blessed with amazing friends. They've supported me all year long - from coming to cheer me on at my bikini competition, to being my listening ear, letting me be the third wheel, putting up with me bringing tupperware to fancy restaurants, calling/texting/emailing/showing up at my house when I just needed support, and so much more. I feel beyond blessed to be surrounded by such strong, supportive and loving women.



A Strong Mind and Resilient Body





Competition prep was anything but easy this year. Dropping 10% body fat while putting on lean muscle mass over a short 4 months was hard. There were days - especially as my show came near - where I had barely enough energy to get out of bed. Juggling a full-time career, spending 2-3 hours a day in the gym, living on less than 1,000 calories and around 5g fat a day left me EXHAUSTED. Yet somehow, I pushed myself beyond my limits and made it to show day unscathed. I am beyond grateful for making it through without a single physical injury. Sure, I missed out on quite a few memories and my lady friend still hasn't returned, but all in all - my body and mind stayed strong and kept pushing... even when all I wanted to do was quit (which I debated daily!).

Maturity to Trust the Timing of My Life
This year, I finally stopped swimming up stream. I spent nearly the entire year single, embracing the opportunity to spend some time on myself. I taught barre, took some vacations, prepped for my first bikini competition, worked my tail off, received a promotion, sold my condo, bought and renovated a new (to me) home, nurtured relationships with friends and family and just "did me." I spent lots of time reflecting on past decisions, future desires, and worked on aspects of myself I was less than thrilled with. It's been an incredible journey - one that I am particularly proud of considering embracing singleness has always been a point of contention for me. I am beyond grateful I took the time and am so very excited to see what the future has in store for me. They say you have to be your own before you can be someone else's... and for the first time in a long time - I feel like I am the person that the person I am looking for is looking for. 


Well, friends... what are YOU thankful for??

XO,
Jenn

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My First NPC Bikini Competition Recap!

I did it! On 10/31 I competed in my first NPC Bikini Fitness Competition at the Lee Haney Games here in Atlanta, GA. I competed in Bikini A Novice – for women under 35 years old, under 5’4 and placed in the top 5!

What an emotional experience prepping for my first competition has been. There were days I loved the process – there is something so empowering as a woman to uncover this raw inner strength we never knew resided within us. Then, as it got closer to my show date and I began the “cutting phase” of prep, there were days I struggled to get out of bed. Struggled to power through extreme fatigue and a brain fog I simply couldn’t shake. All in all, the experience was so rewarding, on so many levels.

  • I made some wonderful friends. There’s something comforting when you experience this with someone who can relate. These girls know what it’s like to go to bed starving, wake up with a rumbling belly and forcing yourself into the gym for hours when all you want to do is take a nap. These girls were my listening ear, confidants, and partners in and out of the gym for the past 6 months. They’re simply awesome – and we’ve already begun making memories outside of the gym that I cherish.

  • I uncovered willpower I never thought I had. Prior to this prep, I lived by mottos including: life is short, have dessert first! And treat yourself! You deserve it! I was awful about depriving myself. If I drove by Pinkberry on the way home and wanted it, I got it. If I was tired and felt like calling my lifting session short, or called it quits at mile 3 instead of pushing myself further, I stopped. This experience forced me to take this seriously. I knew I couldn’t “cheat” on the diet… I knew I couldn’t skip out on workouts. I was going to have to push myself. Push myself beyond every single limitation I ever placed on myself. There was going to be no “I can’t” or “I don’t want to.” I had to give it every single ounce I had. And I did. And it was fucking amazing. Now don’t get me wrong, eating chicken and cod and asparagus out of my microwave (I was living through a renovation the last month of prep) was not amazing. It was terrible. I cried. A lot. Dragging my exhausted ass to the gym for hours a day wasn’t fun towards the end. I had zero strength. Zero endurance. Deadlifts are some of my favorite moves – and I went from being able to pull 135lb for 10 reps no problem to struggling with 95lbs for one rep. Sometimes I felt so dizzy, other times my stomach grumbled so loudly I would troll Pinterest for hours… just looking at food I knew I couldn’t eat. But I realized just how strong I am. It’s mind over matter – and that transcends into various aspects of life beyond any fitness competition.
  • My confidence skyrocketed. I’ve briefly discussed my past struggles on this blog, but I battled a serious eating disorder for 10+ years of my life. It was awful. I just never felt confident in my own skin. I compared myself to other girls, I stared at my reflection in the mirror wondering why I couldn’t have slender hips and chiseled abs. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy – the feeling you get as a woman when you’d do anything – including risking your own health – to feel better about yourself. Throughout prep, my confidence soared. Sure, the comments and glances from men were nice, but it was seeing myself transform that really motivated me. I saw my body tone and tighten, and I saw my strength and endurance increase. For the first time in my 31 years, I was proud of the reflection that stared back at me. I felt beautiful in my skin – and that is priceless. In fact, I had a friend of mine - who happens to be an exceptionally talented photographer - offer to take some pictures the day after my show... and I'm in love with each shot more than the next. She hasn't had a chance to work her photoshop magic on my splotchy spray tan, but here is a sneak peak at some of my favorite shots:


Now, as I’ve always said, it hasn’t been all unicorns shitting rainbows. It’s been hard. And there have definitely been quite a few “lows” throughout the past 6 months.

  • I’ve isolated myself. I’ve declined invitations to bachelorette parties, vacations, dinners out, girl’s weekends, work trips and more. I’ve spent more Friday and Saturday nights alone on the couch than ever before. By the end of prep, I was so hungry and irritable, I stopped answering my phone and refused to return phone calls. I don’t like being a negative person and rather than project my grumpiness on anyone else, I abstained from communicating with the people I care about.
  • I created a body that isn’t sustainable. I’ll admit it – I love being as lean as I was show day. But the fact of the matter is, it’s not sustainable. I have zero desire to live a life of deprivation. I want the margarita. I want the fro yo. But I also want the abs. Well friends, you can’t have it all. So now I’m going to have to live life and figure out how to balance it all.
  • I’ve become shallow. It’s embarrassing to see how many of the pictures in my phone over the last 6 months are shirtless selfies. Every day I’d wake up, weigh myself and take a selfie to see my “progress.” What I want is a camera roll full of pictures of me and my loved ones, smiling, making once in a lifetime memories. So again, now I strive to live a life of balance – and stop putting my life on hold.

So, you must be reading this and wondering… “So Jenn, will you do it again?”

And the answer is probably. My goal over the next few months is to continue hitting the gym and building a bit of muscle in key areas including my delts, hamstrings and glutes. I’m going to indulge and let myself enjoy some treats I used to enjoy like frozen yogurt, petite filets, wine and margaritas but try and limit my indulgences so I can maintain some sort of lean physique over the holidays.

If I do another prep, I’d like it to be with a IIFYM approach. I did my last prep with a “clean eating” and “elimination diet” and I don’t think I would or could do it again. I don’t have the desire to eliminate complete food groups from my diet nor do I think it’s necessary. Plenty of people compete using an “If It Fits Your Macros” approach – meaning they track their macronutrients including calories, fat, protein and carbohydrates. And as long as they calories out exceed their calories in, they can eat any food groups they choose. Coming from someone who hasn’t had a banana in nearly 6 months, I’d say IIFYM sounds pretty damn good to me.

So there’s my recap, folks! I must say yet again – thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you for all of your support and kind words throughout this whole journey. I’ve kept every note, every voicemail. I cherish my friends who came out and sat for 5 hours on show day waiting for me to come out and strut myself nearly naked for 5 minutes on stage.

My desire for balance transcends into every aspect of life, including this blog. I’m excited to resume writing about life, love and everything in between and sharing it all with you along the way.

XO,
Jenn

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

NPC Bikini Post-Competition Life: I'm Ready!

"What are you going to do after the competition?"

Hands down, this is the #1 question people ask me lately. I have precisely 3 days that stand between me and show day and to distract myself from the grumblings coming from my stomach, I have been doing a ton of thinking. Thinking about what i want once this competition prep - and competition itself - is over. I’ve contemplated what my new normal will look like. What will make me happy. What I truly want for my life. And here’s the truth. 

Competition prep has quite possibly been one of the most selfish things I’ve ever done. Now that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. It has gotten me in incredible shape, imparted a ton of knowledge as it relates to nutrition and overall well being. I’ve learned how to make better decisions as it relates to food, and I’ve learned to push myself in the weight room. Mostly i’ve come to the self-realization that i am a tough cookie. I set my mind to competing, and i’m doing it. It hasn’t been easy 99% of the time. I quit 100,000 times in my mind. But I somehow stuck it out. All of the nights out with friends, tupperware in tow. The vacations I abstained from, in fear of not having the right foods at my disposal. The short fuse, the impatience from being hangry, the self-inflicted isolation. Running on fumes and still showing up in the gym when I barely had enough energy to get out of bed. 

So yes, I’ve had lots of time to self-reflect and decide what I want once Saturday is behind me. And here’s what I’m ready for:

I’m ready to be a bit more selfless. I’m ready to be a more engaged friend. A daughter who calls more often. I’m ready to be more present in my career. I’m ready to workout for pleasure. Embrace my love of cooking. Entertain in my new home. I’m ready to resume traveling for pleasure. I’m ready to get out there and try all the awesome new restaurants that have opened in Atlanta since I’ve been on prep.  

And quite possibly the most significant, I’m ready to fall in love. Not just the love I have for friends and family. Beyond the love I have for myself. I’m ready for the put someone first, love with my whole heart, even when it’s scary and I’m vulnerable and feel like I’m standing naked in a crowd but it’s SO worth it love. 

I’ve spent the last 6 months being completely consumed with myself - and I’ve learned so very much. But truth be told, there is a whole life I want to live that has NOTHING to do with how visible my abs are. And to that life, all I can say is, "I am ready!"



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

NPC Bikini: 12 DAYS Out. Someone Give Me a Cracker!

12 Days. 288 Hours. 17,280 Seconds. 
But whose counting?! 

Mental State:
  • We truly all do get by with a little help from our friends. My girlfriends have stepped up in the biggest way possible lately. From coming over for tea, to coffee dates, to hourly check-in texts and helping me whitewash my fireplace - I am beyond blessed with such strong, reliable and loving women. Color me emotional from the sodium, fat and calorie deficit I'm in, but it nearly moves me to tears just to think about all the love around me. I am so grateful each and every single one of you!!
  • Today is the big day! I pick up my suit at Waterbabies! Cannot wait to see that teeny tiny red sparkly suit! 
  • I'm still amazed at the scale. I've been losing a lot of weight - not necessarily the healthiest way I'm sure. My calories are around 1k a day, fat is under 20g and sodium is non-existent. Next time around, I think I can do this with more food... but we're so close out to showtime I am just trying to power through and make it to next Saturday.
  • I can't lie though - it's an emotional roller coaster. I'm still foggy, still weak and sometimes I just want to cry. Other times - like yesterday when I was at LA Fitness and a guy literally came up to me and said, "Hey Gorgeous. Happy Monday. How was your weekend? You party?"... I just want to punch people in the face. Dude, I don't know you. I don't want to talk to you. Walk away! #sorrynotsorry BUT there are days (or moments) where I feel happy and grateful. The other day I was running sprints and an amputee walked by. I couldn't help but look up, and thank g-d for blessing me with the physical ability to embark on this journey. 
Workouts:
Totally normal gym attire, no!?
  • Finding my energy completely zapped. Long gone are my early morning workouts. I just can't get up and energized in time. Now I get up around 7:30am, drink coffee and eat breakfast. I ease into my work day and then workout at lunch and after work. I just can't power through early mornings like I used to!
  • Definitely feeling my strength subside. I'm trying to go heavy, but power lifts like squats and deadlifts are getting harder to PR. 
  • Cardio was upped to 6 days a week, 30 minutes at a time. Considering some girls have an hour 7 days, I don't want to complain. I just listen to a bunch of good music, pray and breathe. It's over soon enough.





Nutrition:
  • Yeah, so all sodium is now gone. That means my little tablespoon of mustard to help me choke down fish is gone. My food officially has zero flavor. 
  • I am going to turn into a green bean. Or Asparagus. Or a piece of chicken breast. I've given up on trying to make the food exciting - so at this point I literally eat the same meal 6 times a day (fish or chicken, sweet potato or butternut squash, and asparagus, carrots or green beans). The struggle is real, folks.
  • I've cheated. I'm weak. I've eaten a few quest bars here and there. Good lord the mint chocolate chip is delicious. Sorry Coach Steve. 
  • I am still going at this 100% natural. No fat burners, no diuretics, nothing. 


Saw this quote by Arnold himself and couldn't help but love it. We truly are always stronger than we know. ALL that's getting me through the next 12 days is knowing that I've been strong enough to come this far - it's been a LONG journey - and I just have to keep pushing past the boundaries I've put in my own way. Let's do this!. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

NPC Bikini: 2 Weeks Out. Brain-Dead, Tired and Hangry

17 Days. I can do it. I can do iiiiiit. Can't I?! 

Mental State:
  • Hunger. Intense feelings of hunger - aka HANGRY pains. I literally think about food 90% of the day. The other 10% I'm asleep.
  • Doubt. Am I ready? Since this is my first show, I have no benchmark on how I should feel/look. Am I lean enough? Is my stomach flat enough? Are my glutes getting TOO flat? It's been a hard balance to strike - leaning out while keeping any size on me. I'm losing weight rapidly without really changing much - so I'm almost a bit nervous of coming out on stage looking flat... but I am trusting the process, my coach and my body. Whichever shape I bring out on stage is the shape I'm meant to have on show day. 
  • Fog. Not like London Fog. MENTAL fog. I've gone grocery shopping without my wallet THREE times. I've missed calls at work. I constantly leave the house and realize I've forgotten something once I'm driving out of the neighborhood. I'm just completely OUT.OF.IT. 
  • Grateful. I've worked SO hard since May for this body, and it's been great to me. Thank g-d I've had no injuries - I may be small, but I'm mighty! I'm also greatful for my friends, my coach, my teammates and everyone who has stuck by my side and given me words of encouragement when I wanted to cry, quit or both!
  • Excitement. Thanks to my awesome teammates, I'm excited for show weekend!! As I've mentioned, hair, tan and makeup are all booked. Now it's fun thinking about lounging around with girlfriends and enjoying the event itself.  
  • Guilt. I'm feeling guilty for having thoughts of pushing a small child out of my way for a brownie. Or a Quest Bar. Or a protein shake. Or anything OTHER than chicken, fish, green beans  or asparagus. 
Workouts:
  • So.Over.Cardio. It's not even that I hate cardio (kinda do, but it's a necessary evil) - it's just that I'm so tired. It's hard for me to get motivated to power through sprints and stairmill circuits when all I want to do is nap! I've started taking High Volume by PEScience and love it. Totally helps give you a pump with zero caffeine. If only it would take away my cravings for food other than chicken and asparagus!
  • Still powering through my lifting sessions. I actually got the chance to meet Lee Haney a few weeks ago at my coach's gym - what a nice guy!! He went up to Coach Steve and said "Hey Steve, is that one of your competitors? She looks beautiful." I had no idea who he was! Steve looked at me and said "You do realize that is Lee Haney himself, right?" Color me embarrassed. Here I was, bitching and moaning through 5 sets of pull-ups in front of a bodybuilding legend!
Nutrition:
  • I'm trying my best, but hot damn I'm OVER this diet. Eating chicken or fish 7 times a day is just not fun folks. Especially when you factor in zero sodium. Actually, that's a lie. I've been using mustard or hot sauce - but those are gone 2 weeks out. So now it's plain 'ol protein. It's a constant internal battle between I'm so hungry and I hate the way this fish tastes.
  • I want carbs. All the carbs. I've been trying to de-bloat my belly however possible and cutting starchy carbs was the first way. So now I'm eating 4oz of butternut squash with some cinnamon as my carb source for lunch & dinner. I'm still having my WHOPPING 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats in water for breakfast. I swear, I long for the mornings of oatmeal with almonds and a cut up banana. 
  • Like I mention above, I'm trying to do whatever I can to get rid of any last belly bloat before the show. So a new nightly ritual of Dandelion tea and chugging lemon water are now part of my daily routine. 
Life Lately:
  • I went to a friend's wedding over the weekend and rocked a new dress (which fit when I bought it 3 weeks ago but I had to have it taken in last minute!). I was proud of myself for having ZERO alcohol at the wedding, zero wedding cake (although I did try a bite of a french macaron - my all time fave), snacking on a Quest bar during cocktail hour and making good decisions on clean veggies and lean protein during the reception. It was NOT easy - but I made it happen. Mind over matter. . 


Late night abs: 

Friday, October 9, 2015

NPC Bikini Update - We're Getting Close Folks!

Measurements 3 Weeks Out

  • Weight: I'm not even accounting for me weight right now because it literally fluctuates at a moments notice
  • Height: 5’2
  • Chest – 34 inches
  • Arm (bicep) – 9 inches
  • Arm (forearm) – 6.5 inches
  • Waist – 24 inches
  • Hips – 31.75 inches
  • Glutes – 35.5 inches 
  • Thighs – 20.5 inches
  • Calves – 12.5 inches
What I've accomplished this week 
Post-LONG, sweaty gym sesh!
  • Finally took the plunge and bought my suit
  • Booked my spray tan for the night before the show
  • Booked my hair appointment (actually my amazing girl Tiff did)
  • Booked hotel room for night before (sharing with Tiff - who I swear I couldn't even get through doing this show without. Got to love great girlfriends!)
  • Incorporated more cardio (treadmill sprints and stairmill ladders)
  • Kept my energy UP in the gym despite being physically exhausted 
  • Cheating on my diet with a super small cup of sugar-free fro yo (don't tell Coach...) after Cost Plus World Market delivered two dining room tables and refused to take one back, the cable and internet in my new place has been out all week, cabinets were installed with no counter tops, and then I dropped my phone and shattered the entire thing. Tell me you wouldn't treat yourself to $2 worth of fro yo too?!
On The Agenda
  • Get fresh haircut and highlights tomorrow #FreshtoDeath
  • Join/pay for NPC membership 
  • Register for my 2 classes for show day (novice and open)
  • Make mani/pedi appointment
  • Buy nair (yeah, blonde gmaarm hair begone...)
  • Buy competition day outfit (apparently silk is where its at)
  • Buy competition day jewelry 
  • Practice posing in hooker... err I mean clear... heels . Need my sass to match my ass!
  • Up my water intake!
  • Find part time job to support my competition lifestyle (just kidding... sort of)
Being three weeks out tomorrow, this is all starting to feel SO real. It has been a LONG road since May. I've done this prep 100% clean - no fat burners, no stimulants, no crazy pre-workouts or thermos. It's been me vs me the entire time, with an awesome support system pushing me along the way. Even the front desk attendants and trainers at my local LA Fitness crack me up. When I leave in the morning they all yell "See you later!"... because OF COURSE I'm coming back for my two a day... DUH :)
I'm committed to finishing this prep strong - regardless of how show day goes, because like I've mentioned in my last post - my life will go on well beyond show day. I'm in my new home, renovations are nearly over, I've hired a Manager at work to help with my insane workload and I have NO out of town work trips planned between now and show time. Let's do this!! 
Oh, and just because... I'm totally celebrating my FIRST bicep vein! #

XO,
Jenn

Monday, October 5, 2015

NPC Bikini Comp - 4 Weeks Out

4 Weeks Out. You’re probably all thinking, “You can do it! Only 4 weeks stand between you and the finish line!” But here’s the reality. Unless I get hit by a bus on the day of my show (please lord, don’t let that happen!), life will go on. 
Let me say that again. Life does NOT end with my show.
But speaking of my show... I recently went and tried on suit colors and cuts to determine the most flattering one for show day. Here's a little sample of the dental floss - aka suit- I tried.

When I started on my journey back in May, I was nearly 26% bodyfat and thanks to a trip to the Dominican Republic at an all-inclusive resort, I have no clue how much I weighed (probably close to 130!).
Over the past 5 years I’ve conquered TONS of fitness-related goals. I’ve done a triathlon, I’ve competed in CrossFit and began teaching barre classes. And now, I’ve become a bodybuilder.
As a lover of the quote “Life is short, have dessert first,” I’ve never been a fan of depriving myself. I always thought I could out train an indulgent diet. During my CrossFit years I worked out nearly every day and lifted heavy weights. I ate paleo and avoided refined sugars and anything “white” in regards to flour/pasta/bread. I was in pretty good shape – I was just constantly hungry and constantly giving in to my cravings so the body fat stayed put. I also indulged in alcohol 3-5 times a week thanks to an intense social/dating life.
It wasn’t until I started working with my coaches in May 2015 that for the first time in my life I put myself (or shall I say was put on) a meal plan.
For those unfamiliar, you’re literally given a list of foods broken out into categories: protein, carbs, fat, fruit and vegetables and the exact quantities you’re supposed to eat at each meal. The plan is completely void of all oils, butter and sodium so everything you see below is either steamed or roasted with pepper and sodium-free seasonings (Hello Mrs. Dash!). As my show has gotten closer, portions have changed and foods are eliminated. If you’re curious, here is my current meal plan:
Meal 1: (Breakfast) 3oz liquid egg whites, ¼ cup old fashioned oats (cooked in water), 4oz berries
Meal 2: (Before workout) 1.5 oz chicken, 4 oz berries, 6 almonds
Meal 3: (Lunch) 3 oz Orange Roughy, 4 oz. butternut squash, 6oz asparagus spears
Meal 4: (Afternoon snack) 1.5 oz chicken, 6 oz green beans, 6 almonds
Meal 5: (Dinner) 3 oz chicken breast, 4 oz. quinoa (cooked in water), 6oz green beans
Meal 6: (Before bed) 1.5 oz chicken, 6 oz asparagus
The workouts currently consist of weight-training for 60-90 minutes 5 days a week along with 25 minute HIIT cardio 6 days a week. 
WHAT’S MY POINT?
Preparing for a competition has forever changed me – mind and body. I’ve shed fat and put on lean muscle. And while I love being in this type of shape, I do strive for a healthy and balanced lifestyle. A lifestyle I plan to embrace next month when I transition out of my “cutting” and into “real life.”
Eating the way a fitness competitor eats during prep (and doing their workouts!) is not necessarily the solution. In fact, such a rigid, restrictive plan could potentially lead to failure because of the difficulty to stay the course. I am currently craving BALANCE, healthy HABITS and freedom. I’d love to enjoy a meal that isn’t weighed or measured. Shit, Quest Bar just came out with a pumpkin flavor that I’ve been legit DROOLING over. I’d love to skip the gym one day just because I’m tired – or because I’m on the road with work and don’t want to get up at 4am every day (cutting/contest prep and traveling with a full-time corporate job is EXHAUSTING – I literally come home sick every single time). I’d love to get the small popcorn at the movies, or say yes to ordering dessert on a date. In fact, obsessing over food is a real thing!
Orthorexia: an obsession with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy
Thankfully, I don’t think I’m developing another eating disorder, but I will say being this regimented with every single morsel of food isn’t the healthiest way to live. I travel everywhere with my insulated food bag - packed with my food scale to ensure I’m eating the right portions of proteins/carbs (I usually eyeball veggies since you can’t really get enough of them so long as they are free of oils or sodium). I'm always sporting a gallon jug of water (which is a super great habit to get into, btw!).
I hope you don't walk away from this post with negative thoughts – it’s just me keeping it real and telling the truth. This isn’t easy – and it isn’t as glamorous as one might think. It’s hard work, dedication, insane will power and surprisingly, the strength doesn’t come from a physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

As always, thanks for reading and following me on my journey. You guys are the best.
XO,

Jenn

Monday, September 28, 2015

How I Enjoy the Little Things When Life Gets Stressful

When life gets particularly stressful and hectic, I like to remind myself to enjoy the little things. Between prepping for my first competition, traveling across country twice in one month for work, selling my condo, buying my home and living through the renovation, it’s safe to say life has been a bit… overwhelming… lately.

But – thankfully – it’s all good stuff. So rather than let stress creep in, I try and relish in small moments of happiness and relaxation. Over the past week, just a few of the ways I’ve enjoyed the small things (that arguably all really do equate to the “big picture”):

Hot coffee on a Sunday morning. Nowhere to be, nothing to do. The smell of a freshly brewed pot of coffee (lately I am LOVING Dunkin Donuts Cinnamon Coffee Cake flavored coffee!) while still in your pjs on a cozy Sunday is simply blissful.
Time with Girlfriends. Sushi lunch dates. Impromptu mid-day coffee breaks. Weekly posing practice. Monthly foot massages. Sometimes I ramble, sometimes I listen. Sometimes we laugh sometimes we cry. Either way, time with my closest girlfriends brighten up my day and always leaves me feeling grateful.
A Good Massage. I’m a member of one of those monthly massage spas and have been seeing my masseuse for years now. He eases more perpetually sore muscles and always makes me laugh – feels like just yesterday he was telling me he was going to try online dating. He went on Plenty of Fish a year ago, and this past Saturday got married! It’s been awesome seeing our friendship evolve over the years.
Naps with Lucy. I’ve never been much of a napper, but this past weekend Atlanta was hit with a downpour of rain that just wouldn’t quit. I opened all the bedroom windows and let the sound of rain hitting the window pane lul Luce and I to sleep. It felt glorious!
Phone Dates with My Mom. Living in two separate states isn’t always the easiest, but I love having our daily chats to look forward to. My mom is always my biggest supporter and I love sharing news (big or small) with her. She’s a great sounding board.
Planning an Upcoming Occasion. This year I'll be breaking in my new home by hosting my first Thanksgiving! I'm having family fly in and spend a long weekend with me - and I'm beyond excited. Maybe it's the fact that I'm starving on prep, but I find myself daydreaming about what to cook and where to take them during their visit. Knowing in just a few months I'll be surrounded my some of my most favorite people brings instant warmth to my heart. 
Sweat Sessions at the Gym. It’s no surprise I’ve been logging quite a bit of time in the gym lately. While the workouts are sometimes exhausting and I don’t always feel like training specific body parts (boo triceps!) or doing particular movements (ew Frog Hops!), I do love getting the endorphins pumping. And I always remind myself it’s a blessing to be able to work out the way I do. Financially, physically, you name it. It is a privilege, not an obligation.
Dancing Around in my Birthday Suit. Because let’s face it, sometimes at the end of a long day, nothing feels better than turning up one of your favorite songs, taking off all your clothes and dancing around like a total goofball. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

NPC Bikini Competition Update

Guys,

Is this really happening? We're getting so close! All on comp prep front is going right along. It's funny but I still struggle with those sweet cravings. The other day I went to the grocery store for chicken and must've blacked out. I literally found myself in the cookie aisle just staring at all the oreos. Did you know they now make them in caramel apple and pumpkin pie? Neither sound appealing, however I would do some serious damage to the Brownie Batter ones. Put that ish on my list for post-comp cheat. 

And speaking of cheat meals... I had one Saturday! Totally unexpected (and definitely my last before my show) - I went for Mexican with my awesome girlfriends. Chips, salsa, queso AND two tacos with beans and plantains. OMG. Each bite was more glorious than the next. Coach said to get dessert too, and I fully intended on it - but damn I was so full. Not a single morsel of food was getting inside me after that meal of gluttony. But then, something crazy happened. I was sick all of Sunday! Like terrible cramping, awful feelings of bloat and lethargy. It was awful! Which begs the question - what will I do after my show? Clean eating may be slightly anti-social and definitely more expensive and time consuming, but man... I feel like a million bucks when I do. I'll be spending quite a bit of time over the next few weeks deciding what to do after my show, especially since I am strongly considering doing another in March now that I have a better "base" then when I started this journey (less fat and more muscle). 

Temptation overall is really gone. My willpower is about 99.99999% ON POINT. Last Thursday I met a girlfriend for dinner at a hot spot in town, and brought my dinner. We then met friends afterwards at Holeman & Finch - the restaurant FAMOUS for their burger and fries. I sat and watched all of them crush burgers (TWO patties, cheese, etc.), fries and beers. I felt ZERO temptation to ask for a bite. I nursed my water and then did give into my true craving - silver tequila on the rocks. I've never been a big drinker in that I can't drink a ton of drinks, but I do love a drink or two. That, and dessert, has been the hardest for me this prep. I'm perfectly content eating my chicken and green beans 7 times a day - but tell me I can't have a glass of wine and we have a problem!

Last weekend during posing, my fellow competitors suggested I try waist training (apparently I was the only one who didn't get the memo!). Thankfully my waist is already sitting at around 24.5 inches, but I still struggle with feeling confident with my midsection. We all have our insecure spots and that is for sure mine. So here it is - you put it on just like a corset and boy it's hard to breathe!! It has boning it in that keeps everything tight - I try and wear it for at least half the day... when I take it off I'm like Oh Hello abs!! 


Speaking of my fellow competitors - these girls have been awesome sauce lately. We've all been having a ton of fun showing up for posing practice on Tuesday's and Saturday's and lifting each other up during this super intense time. I used to DREAD posing practice - something about standing on stage nearly naked in bizarrely revealing positions just didn't come naturally (surprise surprise). However, now I'm feeling confident and posing practice has become fun! Here are some recent shots: 

I particularly love this shot because it shows just how hard I've worked to build solid glutes, hamstrings and calves. Leg day for me is chest day for most guys. I just LOVE it. I PR'd my deadlift, leg extension AND hamstring curl today - and nothing makes this girl feel sexier than feeling STRONG. I actually admitted to my coach the other day that I've been sneaking in extra reverse hack squats (if you don't know what these are - google them, then do them) just because I love them so much! If it's true what Steve says - that bikini competitions are "won from the back," I'm glad my hard work is paying off. 


This one is awesome - check out that huge pineapple on my head!! Taking pictures really helps - I can see here how I lose my neck in my side pose. Definitely something to keep in mind as I continue to refine my strut ;) I will say, as confident as I am becoming, I see pictures like this and think damn! I'm so short! I feel like us short ladies need to be even smaller just to look as lean as a taller girl. #shortpeopleproblems


Just a few more weeks until showtime! I'll be ordering my suit in a few weeks... still cannot decide which color/style to go with!! I asked Coach for a gold suit but got a big N-O on that. Apparently bright colors are best... so I'm debating a fuchsia or purplish blue. Anyone who knows me, knows I never shy away from an excuse to go shopping!

Hope everyone's Monday is off to a fabulous start!

XO,
Jenn

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Promise of a New Year

Your mistakes are not who you are. They are what you’ve done.

Care for a little background? Yesterday concluded Rosh Hashana – the Jewish New Year. We believe it is during this holiday that our fate for the coming year is decided. Next week during Yom Kippur, our fate is sealed. 

I realize many of my readers may not be Jewish, but humor me here… I think the lessons transcend – whether you’re Christian, Mormon, or don’t believe in much of anything.
We are taught that sin is an act, not a state. We all screw up. We are each born with powerful tendencies to both good and bad - and the drama of human character lies within the struggle and balance between the two. 
Teshuva (the hebrew word for repentance) is ongoing, mainly because even though we KNOW what is right and wrong, sometimes our desires (and the power of human nature) blur our lines of rationale… and let’s face it - life can be complex and confusing. 
It's during this time of year that we are encouraged to reflect on what we've done and what we've left undone. We're encouraged to refocus on what's important and who we want to be - it's never too late! Teshuva is meant to be aspirational. It's less about who we have been and more about who we might become. We're encouraged to assess any damage we've done in the past year, apologize, make amends, and move forward. 
This, in my opinion, is this holiday's true beauty. G-d offers us this chance to return to Him and receive love. In every moment, of every day.  
I couldn’t help but think back to December 31st, 2014. The clock was about to strike midnight and we all proclaimed our New Year’s resolutions.
Mine was “do more of what scares me.”
And here I am – nearly 10 months later (WHERE has this year gone?!) and I’ve terrified the shit out of myself!! I joined a barre studio and taught pilates. I quit that part-time job after deciding to do a bodybuilding competition. A self-confessed argument avoider (is that actually a word?!), I ended a relationship that contained more arguments than all previous relationships combined. I sold my condo (with all my belongings in it!), bought a house, hired a contractor and watched as they ripped all the walls out. While I’m proud to say I’ve come a long way this year, make no mistake. I’ve stumbled. I’m not perfect. And that’s the beauty in this holiday. It’s about holding up that mirror to ourselves and saying, “Ok. I wasn’t perfect. But here’s who I want to become.”
And sitting in that temple yesterday morning, I made a commitment to myself – and the good man above. I want to continue terrifying myself – doing bold things with this one life I have. I want to tell the special people in my life what they mean to me. I want to be a loving and loyal partner when the right person comes into my life. I want to do good deeds without expecting anything in return. I want to practice patience and forgiveness. 
For all my readers – regardless of what you believe in – I hope you too experience a wonderful year that encourages you to stretch beyond the constraints you may put on yourself. I hope you see beautiful places, I hope you feel the contentment of receiving true, unconditional love. I hope you challenge yourself and try something you never thought possible. And most importantly, I hope you live a grateful life - living each and every day to its fullest.

XO,
Jenn

Monday, September 14, 2015

NPC Bikini - 6 Weeks Out Update



Although at times it sure doesn't feel like it, were getting close folks!! I'll be honest and say this is where it's getting tough. I mentally debate quitting every day, but thanks to the awesome support I consistently receive from friends, fellow competitors, and amazing coaches, I've been able to power through.

So let's cut to the chase. Here are the things no one wants to talk about when it comes to contest prep:

1) It's completely isolating. Your friends who used to call you for dinner, brunch, happy hour, drinks on a Saturday night, a concert, {fill in the blank with anything fun here} just stop. Your good friends find creative ways to see you despite the lifestyle - walks, pedicures, workouts, whatever. It's the time together that matters, not what you're doing. To those girlfriends - and you know who you are - you literally brighten my life and I am SO grateful for you all. I think for me personally, working from home exacerbates the feeling of isolation, but I just keep reminding myself it's 6 more weeks.

2) You get hangry. For those unfamiliar, that is hungry AND cranky all bundled together. Who wants to weigh every morsel of food, count every macro, pass on every dessert, look the other way when someone opens a bottle of wine. It's tough! While I don't want to fall off the wagon and engage in an unhealthy way of eating, it would be pretty blissful to eat some food, drink some wine and just ENJOY without counting. Maybe it's because i'm bad at math :)

3) Your wardrobe is no more. Nothing fits. Jeans fall down and tops are beyond baggy. Workout clothes even begin to be too big. You want to go buy new clothes, but you're not sure what size you'll end up post comp so you hold out and just embrace always looking disheveled. 

4) You have no release. Working out used to be my release, but now honestly the workouts are so long it feels like work. You can't wind down with wine or a cocktail, and if you're single like me, you can't release with a little sexy time either. (For those who read the last few posts, the new relationship is no more thanks to one primary reason - I'm cool, he's not! Juuuuust kidding, he's a good guy. Just not my guy.)

5) Weird physical shit starts happening. Apologies in advance, but I'm going to keep it real here. Your body fat gets so low during cutting, wave goodbye to your menstrual cycle. The good news to that is I no longer have raging PMS cravings, the bad news is I'm sure my hormone levels are completely out of whack. Have you ever tried eating your body weight in protein? Well when you compete, you do. Fruits, fats, and carbs are reduced and your diet mainly consists of water, protein (eggs/chicken/fish/turkey) and veggies. This is where living alone is a positive. Google protein farts. #thestruggleisreal

Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to only focus on the negative. The truth of the matter is, competing is a blessing. I'm blessed to be able to afford my coach. I'm blessed to be physically able to complete my strenuous workouts. I'm blessed to have the willpower to stick to my diet. I'm blessed to have a support system that KICKS ASS. But, in true "me" fashion, I felt I owed it to everyone to keep it 100 and admit that this is not glamorous nor "easy." But then again, no one said it would be easy. But it sure will be worth it.

XO,
Jenn

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

NPC Bikini Prep 7 Weeks Out... and How to Quell Overthinking

53 days. There are 53 days between a stage, tiny bikini and me.

I vividly remember a conversation with my girlfriend Beth back in May. She said two months before my competition she'd start "giving me space" because I'd probably be tired and hungry. Well, thanks to the power of Advil PM, I'm no longer tired. However, I am hungry. And technically not hungry since I do eat 7 times a day... but I am now craving the most RANDOM foods like never before. Candy corn. Pumpkin spice lattes. BBQ Brisket with Mac Cheese. Smores. Sushi. ALL. THE. WINE. 

My dad was in town visiting this weekend and I just about SNAPPED on the poor man as he reached for a bag of Twizzlers at the store. I nearly teared up watching him enjoy my favorite meal, at my favorite restaurant, while I pulled out a chicken breast from my YSL clutch. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again - comp prep is 99% mental. The mind is such a powerful thing. The more I tell myself I don't need to succumb to my cravings, the stronger I feel. On the days when I say I can't do it, I truly feel like I can't stomach another morsel of fish or ground turkey. This fitness journey is MIND over MATTER - a lesson I'm re-learning daily.

With just 53 days till my show, I've begun letting my mind wander about what I want after the show - which will apparently be an all day affair (pre-judging begins in the morning, lunchtime break followed by an evening show!). I've decided a small zip lock baggie of candy corn mixed with roasted peanuts is exactly what I want (although this surely will change 100 times between now and then). The day after my show, I have a photoshoot with the amazingly talented Kelli Price - SO excited to have some tangible proof of this strong, lean little body I'm building. Immediately following that shoot, I plan to get brunch with friends at General Muir here in Atlanta. Embarrassingly, I totally look at pictures of their poutine and pastry basket on Instagram and let myself drool. Look at these pictures and tell me they don't look delicious AF.




Alright, putting my inner fat kid away, here is my 7 weeks out progress. 

For someone who is generally very critical of herself, I must admit... I love this picture. It was just before a special dinner out with a hunky someone - and that ear to ear smile doesn't lie. Beyond how genuinely happy I felt the night this picture was taken, I love how lean my legs are looking! Being a whopping 5'2, it's sometimes hard to appreciate my short legs... but this picture shows just how toned they're getting! The short shorts and tank were both purchased from the kids department at Marshalls (no shame in my game!) - as I can't bring myself to continue wearing my clothes which no longer fit, yet I don't want to invest a ton of money as I'm not sure I'll be maintaining my size 0 frame after my show. All in all, I feel strong and happy. I'm not sure where I'll be in 7 weeks - but I am going day by day, placing confidence in my coach AND myself. 

Switching gears... I'd be a liar if I sat here portraying life to be all unicorns shitting rainbows. I'm human, and like everyone else walking planet earth, I deal with my own insecurities and vulnerabilities. Recently, I started dating someone and began a swirl of super unhealthy thinking. Is he as interested in me as I am in him? Is he dating anyone else? The list goes on. It's funny because I normally don't over analyze many things in life... but when I meet someone I really like (RARE!)... all hell breaks lose. For anyone else out there who falls victim to overthinking, you all know how downright debilitating it can be. I don't mean to do it, it just sort of happens. And the scary part of overthinking is that it allows us to create negative thought processes, situations and problems that aren't actually there. I recently saw a quote "Don't believe everything you think" - how genius. It's not an easy pattern to break, however. And I've had to diligently work on quelling the inner thoughts that make me go crazy inside. I have to remember to breathe, relax and have faith. Nothing gets away that's meant to be yours. When something is meant to be, it WILL. Whether you over analyze or refuse to give it a second thought. I also try and replace each negative thought with one positive fact. I.e.: {negative thought} I really like him, what if he doesn't feel the same? {positive fact} He couldn't wait to introduce you to his best friend. Men don't introduce you to their childhood friends if they're not interested. He was attentive, affectionate and treated you like a very important person in his life. Relax, woman! 

In my moments of over-thinking, I've found the following helps most: Take a deep breath. Ask myself "will this matter in a year? 5 years?" Distract myself by going to workout, calling a friend/family member, walking Lucy, and praying. I've literally dropped to my knees and prayed to g-d to give me the strength to trust in Him and release the worry when times get tough. And every time, it makes me feel substantially better. 

For all of my fellow over-thinkers out there, give it a try. I hope just one, if not all, of these tactics help you, too! Even the most confident individuals struggle with self-doubt... after all, we all carry around the wounds from past relationships. Been cheated on? How could you not have trust issues. Been abandoned? Surely you'll be waiting for the shoe to drop this time around. 

They say time heals all wounds, and while I do agree... I also believe love heals our wounds. As long as we have the strength and courage to believe in love just one more time. 


XO,
Jenn