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


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!


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.


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.


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. 


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I'm Alive... a New Homeowner... and 8 Weeks Out

It's been awhile, I'd say! 

As life has seriously picked up steam lately blogging just seemed like such a daunting task. Where do I begin?! There's just so much going on - most days I feel like I'm doing all I can to keep my head above water. 

As mentioned in my previous post, I did buy a house. And as of last weekend, I sold my condo! It's been a long, quasi exhausting process trying to buy a fixer upper, work with a contractor on renovations all the while stressing out about selling my condo. And in an interesting turn of events, I ended up selling my house nearly fully furnished! While the buyer was the one who initiated the deal, I must say I'm somewhat relieved I don't have to deal with a huge move - AND - I'm pretty excited to buy some new furniture. In fact, thanks for a dining room sale from World Market, I just purchased my very first big girl dining room table! Hello Holidays :) 

The thought of getting friends and family together around a big table to eat, drink and be merry puts a HUGE smile on my face. I ended up ordering the Arcadia Extension Table which was on sale from $700 to $500. Considering it seats up to 12 people, it's a great deal! Here is a picture of the large, rectangular wood table. I love the thick pillars and the fact that I can keep it closed, or open it to its full length for holiday dinners!

To lighten things up since the table is quite dark, I purchased Ecru Evelyn Upholstered Chairs to go along the sides, and am currently waiting on some Winged back chairs for the heads of the table. 

I never thought I'd be the owner of a 1960's ranch home - I've always been a fan of new construction. BUT after starting my house hunt and realizing I was going to either sacrifice location or home age, I decided to stick with the location I wanted and buy an older home. I've actually had fun (albeit stressful fun) picking out flooring, counter tops, cabinets, tile and such. I have a LONG list of projects I want to tackle - and given the fact that I am NOT handy myself, I'm slightly overwhelmed at the idea of tackling everything but I know Rome wasn't built in a day, and there is plenty of time to make it my own. Buying a single family home has been on my mind constantly for the past 4 years... and after long enough of saying "I"ll buy a house once I meet someone," I'm relieved I finally had the courage to just go for it. I'm trusting in g-d's plan for my life - and while I still of course hope it involves meeting an amazing man and building a life together - I'm no longer depriving myself of a large life goal. 

And speaking of... I am trying to train my mind, similarly to how I train my body, and take matters of the heart slowly for a change. Single since February, I've spent a good amount of time reflecting on past relationships - what worked, what didn't, what I liked about myself, and what I needed to work on. Time and time again I realized I jump head first into someone. I let attraction and passion take over and by date 3 I'm in a full blown, talking constantly, texting hourly, relationship with no substance. Truth is, chemistry is fairly easy to find. You can spot tons of people you find attractive. You can go for dinner, share a bottle of wine, overtly flirt, and jump into something without taking the time to decide whether or not you even like the person - or know them for that matter!! So this time around, I'm doing things differently. Abstaining from alcohol while on prep has helped, as my inhibitions aren't lowered and dates aren't centered around drinking. And while I did "swear off dating" to a certain extent earlier this summer to focus on my competition and myself, great things do happen unexpectedly. And for a change, I'm going to keep this one close to the chest -  but I will say someone has come into my life that has raised the bar and changed the way I want to approach a relationship. I'm giving it time to develop and space to evolve, because for the first time in a very long time, I honestly believe it's worth it :)

And, for an update on competition prep. Well folks - I'm 8 weeks out! Sometimes I can't believe I only have 8 weeks left, and other days I can't believe I STILL have 8 weeks!! It's been a LONG journey.... and I can't lie and say it's been easy. I miss eating without weighing my food. I miss treating myself to Twizzlers or a burger "just because." I miss being social and having cocktails with friends. With all that being said, this is hands down the most confident and proud I've been of this body of mine. I feel physically strong and sexy - my clothes no longer fit and I catch glances of muscles I never knew I had. While I'm still nervous my abs won't come in time for my show, I've worked my ass off (literally) and I think the progress is showing. I really couldn't imagine doing this without the guidance and support of my coaches Steve and Rachel, along with the encouragement and support from my fellow competitors. The girls are so sweet - I'm lucky we all lift each other up and constantly offer support. If anyone has ever thought of competing, or simply getting in the best shape of their life, I'd seriously recommend working with House of Payne. They're incredible (and I'm not just saying that because Coach Steve told me to leave the gym and have a cookie the other day!!). They make me feel like they genuinely care about me - in and out of the gym. Monday was such a tough day for me emotionally, I actually got in the car and drove 40 minutes just to see them face to face and get a hug!

I haven't been the best with posting progress pictures, so here are two from this week. I think leaning out overall has been the biggest change. 

As always, thanks for supporting me through this journey. As my workouts get longer and diet gets tougher, it means SO much to me receiving words of encouragement. Yesterday I received a super sweet and special gift from a dear friend. She took the time to write encouraging notes on a stack of post-its for me to stick on my plastic tupperware containers. This morning the words of encouragement put a smile on my face as I left for the gym at 6 am :) So to Erin and all of the other amazing friends I am so blessed to have in my life- I appreciate and love you all.