Checking In


This past week was a complete and total drag. Having my period and trying to diet and still get into the gym to do what I needed to do felt overwhelming. I was so exhausted every single day last week and it felt like I really had to dig in and fight to stay accountable through the whole week. That being said, the week was a success as I hit my lowest point on the scale at 195.7lbs which was exciting for me. I never thought I would be happy to see that number on the scale but as each pound slowly comes off I am feeling stronger and more confident. I am starting to regain the parts of myself that I started to lose when I became subconsciously more depressed and emotionally chaotic as the weight  came on.

But let’s look at the progress so far:

Staring Measurements (in CM)
Sunday January 17 2016
Waist (Belly Button) 103.7
Hip bone 113.0
Hip (Around butt) 112.0
Waist to Hip Ratio 0.93
Chest 109.5
Biceps 37.2
Upper Thigh 68.7
Lower Thigh 57.5
Calf 40.8
                  Measured at 196.5 lbs 01/17/2016
                   Average weight for this week is 198lbs
Measurements (in CM)
Sunday January 24 2016
Waist (Belly Button) 104.2
Hip bone 112.1
Hip (Around butt) 112.5
Waist to Hip Ratio 0.93
Chest 106.5
Biceps 37
Upper Thigh 67.7
Lower Thigh 57.5
Calf 41
               Measuring at 197 lbs 01/24/2016
             Average weight for this week is 196.9!

So some of my weight has begun shifting. Unfortunately I am someone who collects most of their fat in their upper body – particularly in my back and my arms so I felt pretty good to see some of the measurements falling (even if just slightly) from those areas. In total I think I am down 1.5 inches in 1 week which is not a massive amount but it is still something that I am happy about!

Now it’s Monday morning and I am embarking on week number 3. What I am hoping to see on the scale is an average weight of around 195.5lbs. That would be really nice. I am starting my week today at 197.2 but my body is holding onto what I  ate on Saturday which happened to include a slice of pizza and apple pie. Now that I finally am not feeling tired right off the hop I feel ready to get into the gym and do what I have to do. I have prepared all of my food for today already so have no excuses about feeling hungry or having too much food left at the end of the day. My biggest challenge has been timing my food to see what I need to eat when and I’ve struggled so far to get adequate protein in. This week I have decided to shift around my walking and am hoping to split up my workouts between lunch and in the evenings so that I can really get everything in that I need to each day without burning out.

 

My fingers are crossed that I can really nail down my macros, food timing and slay it in the gym. I am feeling ready to kill it this week!

The Tracking Has Begun


I am really not a fan of weighing, measuring and tracking everything that I eat. I have a scale to measure my food at home and I have a pocket sized scale that I use at work. I try to log my day in advance – either first thing in the morning or the night previous to get an idea of where my protein, carbs and fat will be for the day and try to plan out when to eat what based on what my exercise activity will be for the day. But it’s working.

I hired ChelseaLifts and my first official day on the program was January 11, 2016. I was 199.5 lbs, I had 17.85 weeks/125 days until my competition and for the first time I felt like I was about to get some major control over my fitness and my eating. I had been working out consistently and getting stronger but as per usual my food selection was only seeing me gain weight and I had enough. At one point I stepped on my scale and saw 200.4 lbs and nearly had a meltdown. My heaviest weight was 217lbs back in 2008 and the idea that I was approaching that again terrified me and I knew that I’d reached a point where I had experimented with my food (what macros to eat, how many calories, intermittent fasting, protein sparing modified fasting, low carb, high carb, no carb, etc) enough to know that no matter how many podcasts I listened to, no matter how many studies I read and no matter how hard I was trying to figure out what was optimal for me, I was just not getting anywhere. I was not getting closer to my body fat goal of 28% and I was not seeing the kind of strength gains I thought I would in the gym. Overall, I felt like it was time for me to admit that I needed help.

For my first week I documented my weight in the morning each day after using the bathroom and before eating or drinking anything. I tracked all of my good in MyFitnessPal. I weighed and measured my food but was sloppy with it because the battery on my scale at home died. I exercised. I did HIIT, I walked, I lifted. It was the week before my period was meant to start which meant that I was carrying a lot of water weight, I was feeling weak and I wanted to eat everything but I ended up dropping 3lbs. I admit it, the first two days I was so hungry I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to function and I began splitting up my major lifts over different days because I felt like there was no way I was going to have the strength to get through everything. As it turns out, this was the best idea and I am now squatting 130lbs instead of 115. I am deadlifting for reps over 180lbs and I can now bench 85lbs.

I took my body measurements and my starting progress pics. Something that I thought was interesting was that my shape had definitely changed since the last time I’d taken my measurements back in September of 2014. Some parts of me stayed the same size (within 1cm), some parts of me expanded by a couple centimeters. My calves went down by a few, but my arms went up by the most. I thought it was very odd that most of the fat that I’d gained ended up in my arms and I never really realized it. Despite gaining weight I still fit in to my pants. Most of my tops fit, but I never realized that most of them were very tight through the arms and some of my back. It looks like I am just one of those people who accumulates fat in their upper body faster than any other area and unfortunately those are areas of my body that I am most self conscious about. Here’s hoping that I will see changes week by week (even if they’re tiny!) as I continue to weigh and measure everything in my life.

Now that I am half way through my second week I notice that my hunger has regulated itself. Being the time of my cycle that it is, my weight has flatlined for the first several days. Today I am 197.1 but it’s still down from the 200.4 that I recently saw and it’s still nearly 2.5lbs down from where I began. My goal originally was to weigh in at 175lbs on competition day but I have a feeling it will be cutting it a lot closer to 185lbs. I am just trusting myself to do the work and trusting that my coach will guide me. It’s not even two weeks in but I am still feeling in control. There’s this strange switch that has flipped in my mind where I have been telling myself “you don’t have to do anything other than what you have to do, and the weight will come off.” It’s a very weird feeling being back in control which is something that I haven’t felt since I originally lost 65lbs.

I hope I have exciting updates to share here as each week passes.

The Diet Begins


Today is the first day I’ve made any discernible effort in controlling my diet in a long time. Over the past couple of years I have experimented with a few variations in terms of macronutrient goals (how many grams of carbs, fat and protein to eat a day) and have overall continued to put on weight. Naturally some of this weight is muscle mass as I am absolutely stronger than I’ve ever been but there’s no denying that I have physically begun to expand and most of that expansion has happened recently.

Since getting into weightlifting I have learned to become more objective about my body and what the number on the scale says. I have learned that just because the scale gives me one number it doesn’t mean that it is an indicator of health and performance and it’s certainly not an indicator of size. Right now I still fit (snuggly) into most of my clothing and I am only on the brink of feeling physically uncomfortable. Had I not been going to the gym several times a week to lift some weights I think I would be telling a different tale.

As it stands I need to lose at minimum 15lbs to make it into the weight class in the powerlifting competition I entered. I have just about 18 weeks to achieve this goal. I know myself and I can safely say that when I feel under pressure to lose weight I end up doing the opposite. The stress of figuring out how to eat without triggering anxiety and while getting stronger and also losing some fat is not something that I want to deal with and I definitely don’t want to go on a crash diet at the last minute to cut as much weight as possible in a short period of time. For this reason I decided to hire a macro coach.

I started following Chelsea  ages ago. I really like her approach to fitness and nutrition. I like how transparent she is about everything going on with her channel, her gym, her clothing business, etc. What I responded to most is her confidence and objective viewpoint of her body. She talks about weight, strength and physique without emotional attachments and really seems to feel confident and loves herself whether she’s somewhere in the 130’s or up in the 160’s. Following her Diet Diaries where she takes you through what she eats, what she struggles with and what she does in the gym has made me realize that this is a woman I could get along with and her way of thinking about diet and exercise is something I would like to learn to emulate in my own life.

In order to be as compliant as possible I paid for a one year membership to MyFitnessPal so that I could track right down to the gram. It makes it a lot smoother in terms of tracking my macronutrients and setting goals. Right now I am aiming for 155g Carbs, 50g Fat and 160g protein. Coming down from Keto and seeing how rapidly I gain fat from eating carbs, Chelsea kept my calories and carbohydrates moderate. She underestimated what I would need for the first week to see how my body responds to the uptake in protein and carbs and the reduction in fat. I am basically eating completely different than I have been for a long time so I am interested to see how my weight fluctuates.

In the meantime my workouts have been going well though my consistency is not where it needs to be. That is to say I should be doing Bench, Squat and Deadlift 3x a week but the exercises have been staggered due to time restraints, working overtime and the gym being extremely busy so no bars were available. I will say despite this my lifts continue to improve. I have noticed if I do not hit all my reps one day if I try again a couple days later I am able to do substantially more. The program that I am on wants me to increase the weight every time I get sets of 3 at minimum but I am finding that I want to work on my form and increase my baseline of strength before progressing to the next weight. So far so good! Hopefully I have some good training to share by the end of the week and I am looking forward to seeing what my progress in terms of weight and physique is.

One meal at a time, one rep at a time I am going to get there.

 

 

Execution Is Better Than Excuses


I went to the gym yesterday during my lunch break. I am so fortunate that through my job I have a gym available to me that has all the basic equipment required to complete my workout. It’s not really the place to complete my accessory work but in terms of having squat racks, benches, bars and plates it’s pretty great. What I love about going there is that I am the only one who ever shows up. I’m pretty sure most people go after work but I like to go in the middle of the day and simply get it over and done with.

Having a desk job where I have to stay at my desk almost all the time is really tough and is not helping with my fitness goals. I have to make a concerted effort to walk more outside of my working hours (I haven’t succeeded… yet). I have to make sure I am not always slouching (oops) and I have to make sure that I am stretching and moving around so that I don’t fuse with my chair and convert into a redheaded lump. This is part of the reason why having an accessible gym is so important to me. I can’t believe how easy it is to not notice the hours slipping away and not realizing that hours have passed since I’ve even stood up. My next step is to set an alarm on my phone and march on the spot for 1000 steps on my fitbit. Considering I have only been getting around 5000 steps when my goal is 15000 I think this is definitely something to employ. I honestly just feel myself expanding even though I am exercising 3-4x a week.

It sounds absurd but sitting at a desk all day not moving is actually draining. Sometimes I just want to find an excuse not to go to the gym in the evening or tell myself that since I only have to really go 3x a week to hit my lifts that I can just do it the next day … or the day after that… or maybe even the day after that if I feel so inclined (I usually don’t!). Going on my lunch break at least once a week makes it a hell of a lot easier to show up in the evenings – especially when I am in the middle of a move. The move is something else I could use as an excuse but I know that I will regret not going to the gym a lot more than I would regret it if I show up. I’ve never once shown up and regretted completing my work out.

That said, I have some DOMS in my legs from Monday. I noticed that my squat was kind of slow around the 5th rep and my bench was absolutely weak and I couldn’t hit all my reps.  I had to take a mini break during my deadlift set, too. It felt like a pretty weak workout. Here’s what it looked like:

Dec 14 Workout

Because my reps were slow for every set I am only increasing the weight by 5lbs on each lift. I am hoping my fractional plates come in so I can inch my bench up by 2lbs or so. I think if I had a spot I would have at least turned out 6/5/5 for reps but c’est la vie. I’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

In the meantime, I think I may have finally perfected my protein powder peanut butter cookie recipe. The last time I made these bite sized treats I ended up using a plain protein powder which was NOT delicious and I found that the cookies were much too dry. What I did this time was:

3 Cups Natural Peanut Butter (dumped out the oil on top)

3 Large Eggs

3 Scoops Vanilla Whey Protein Powder

1 Package 50% Cacao Chocolate Chips

I rolled these babies into bite sized balls, threw them on some parchment paper and stuffed them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 450 Degrees. They turned out delicious! I don’t have the macros and such for them but after my move is done I will make them again and share the details.

That’s just a brief little update. I am feeling pretty bloated and sausage-like so I’m going to be spending some time during this week to decide what approach I want to take on my diet and figure out how not to feel too bad about my puffy state. I’ll let you know if I figure it out.

-Sandra

 

Glass of Red Wine Equals 1 Hour at Gym, New Study Says


The Huffington Post on Friday reported on a new study out of The University of Alberta that shows that drinking a glass of red wine may have the same affect on the body as an hour at the gym.

Source: Glass of Red Wine Equals 1 Hour at Gym, New Study Says

Well if that’s the case I should be getting drunk every night and will be in top physical condition in half the time!

I don’t mind a glass of wine once in a while but I do think articles like this will trick people into believing they don’t have to change one single lifestyle habit outside of drinking a glass of wine and somehow it will magically equate to them exercising.

I don’t believe that you can out-exercise your diet and you likely can’t out-drink it either.

Get With The Program


I’ve read and heard from many sources that the key to success in lifting and fat loss is to just stick to the program. In my last post I said I was doing Stronglifts 5×5 but today decided to make a change. Not that I have a problem with squatting 3 times a week or that I mind alternating on my deadlifts and and bench press but I did get the feeling that something was missing in it – especially considering I want to get as strong as possible over the next six months.

I switched to the Powerlifting To Win Novice Program today.  There’s a free e-book and if you like listening to someone talk about the program and what to expect there’s a convenient YouTube video that outlines it for you. A handy dandy spreadsheet is also available for making all of your calculations easy breezy so you can lift hard without thinking hard.

I have a spreadsheet that Chris made for me which calculates all of my totals also. This is what today’s workout looked like:

Untitled (2)

I found that all of my sets were easy. Because I am lifting very low weight at the moment I am essentially warming up with body weight movements and the bar. As time goes on and my sets become heavier warming up incrementally will become much more essential. In the mean time, I am able to go in and get my work outs done in a surprisingly small amount of time – especially if I am able to superset my squat and bench on days I exercise at work (hooray for an empty workplace gym!).Because today was easy and I did not break form on any of my reps I can increase the weight by 10lbs on each lift. I believe this could be much more difficult to do on the bench but I’ve ordered fractional plates that come in small weight increments to make sure that I can at least increase my bench by a little bit every time I hit that movement.

Diet wise I am not really changing a lot. At the moment I am eating around 1800-2000 calories a day. I have been fluctuating so much with my diet and what ratio to follow in terms of Fat, Protein and Carbs and at one point hired a nutrition coach to try out If It Fits Your Macros. To say that the weight packed on fast when I re-introduced carbs would be an understatement. I quickly gained 15lbs and while I also gained strength I am back up to my highest weight in a very long time which also means I’ve reached a point where my clothes from last year are uncomfortable if not completely unwearable. Despite weighing and measuring and tracking down to the last gram I realized that this lifestyle was too strict while also too flexible for me.

Lately I’ve been dabbling with another nutrition plan called AltShift which alternates between high fat + high calories and low fat + low calories. As long as I make healthy carb choices (no more bread and certainly no sugar) I should be OK. Before I fully dive back into that I am eating a Ketogenic diet to try and drop off some of the extra water weight that happily accumulated along with all my cultivated fat. Emotionally I do very well on a high fat diet and even feel pretty good if I have one or two days a week where food choices are a bit more “anything goes.” I enjoyed Carb Nite for this reason and found that the logic behind it made sense to me. It also allowed for me to indulge in things I otherwise would avoid at all cost and reintroduced a lot of freedom in food to me without having it “allowed” every single day. I think in a future blog post when I get my diet dialed and I see the weight come off I’ll tackle the different ways of eating I’ve tried since coming out of very strict Paleo because I feel very different physically and mentally depending on what it is that I am consuming.

Right now I can say that I feel pretty strong and motivated. I am only 2 weeks into this training but am confident that I am going to be able to put up the numbers I want when I hit that platform in May. The fact that Chris and I are following the exact same program and are showing up to the gym together helps me a lot. Can’t be looking weak in front of my man!

Tomorrow’s goal is to walk for an hour on my lunch break, stick to being under 50g of carbs and clean my goddamn house.

 

I Won’t Regret It


In 23 weeks I will be competing in my very first powerlifting competition. This is about as much of a surprise to me as it is to anyone that I know. Having been sedentary and overweight most of my life this is the first time I’ve made a true commitment to my physical strength and fitness.

Having lost 65lbs in the past and regaining 40 of it over 3 years I have been struggling to balance the desire to get strong with the desire to look lean. I was skinny fat at my lowest weight and found that trying to actively put on muscle for the first time in my life also meant that I was eating a lot more and also putting on fat. I had a DEXA scan at the Bone Wellness Center that was disappointing to say the least and since that time I’ve been fluctuating both in my nutrition and my workouts.

Last year I went with my boyfriend to his first meet in Niagara Falls Ontario. There were so many different kinds of bodies at different ages and weights and genders and I felt inspired by the sense of community and how every successful lift was an achievement for each person – even if someone else in their weight class was lifting more. My boyfriend and I had made friends with another couple who were competing and I told them that entering the competition is something that I might consider in 2016.

To say that my training has been staggered and sloppy since that time would be an understatement. My physique has not improved and my strength has only gone up in less than mediocre increments. Any inspiration I had felt this past May had vanished and I started to walk down the path of physical insecurity and even felt like avoiding the gym most days (and so I did).

Last week I was tagged by the couple I met last year on instagram. As it turned out registration had officially opened for the 2016 meet. I hummed and hawed about it and when I opened my email saw the link to the registration from my boyfriend. It seemed that I had conveniently forgot that I ever said that I would enter but everyone else remembered for me. I signed up that day with 24 weeks to go, 20lbs to lose and lifting only with an empty bar.

I am writing in this blog to share my journey leading up to the 2016 meet. For the time being I am following Strong Lifts 5×5, am eating at a very slight deficit and am trying to get 10000 steps a day with my FitBit.  My goal is to get over 200lbs on my squat, 275lbs on my deadlift and if I can even bench 100lbs I will celebrate. I’ve entered the 84kgm weight class but am hoping to weigh in at about 77kgm so that I can avoid any kind of weight loss stress leading up to the competition that might interfere with my focus on staying strong and doing my best. Oh, and I also want to rock my AC Slater Onesie.

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AltShift Challenge


I recently purchashed Jason Seib’s new book AltShift and have decided to enter his contest which ends December 5th. I haven’t written in this blog very much since its inception but what I can tell you is that over the last 2 years I have gained back 30lbs of the original 65 that I have lost, which I will get into more detail about below. In the mean time I have decided to enter this contest as an additional motivator to get down to 28% body fat and hopefully be much stronger than I am currently.

Originally I had lost 65lbs when I transitioned into a Paleo diet back in 2012.  I was able to change my life dramatically which I went over in my blog post about eliminating anxiety with food. I noticed that even though I was at my all time overall goal weight (150lbs) that I only looked like a smaller scale version of my 215lb self. That is to say that I had very little muscle mass and entirely too much fat. I was skinny fat.

In November of 2014 I had become lax in my Paleo diet and started to transition into a low carb/keto diet. I made an appointment at a bone wellness center to have a Dexa scan done so I could really see how much muscle and fat that I had. While I went into the appointment understanding that my body fat percentage would read fairly high in comparison to other fat measurement tools I’d used (scales, Bod Pod, Calipers, etc) I was not prepared to see how little muscle I had. At 47% body fat and only 90lbs of muscle I knew that I had a lot of work to do to correct that ratio. I have to say that even though the body fat read 15% higher than other methods used to measure I was more disappointed by the lack of muscle mass I had.

I dedicated myself to lifting more consistently when I learned that I had 25lbs less muscle than I had been told. Due to a life long sedentary lifestyle I had poor mobility and not a lot of strength. I was able to get my deadlift to 175lbs but my squat was dismal to non-existent and my bench was 70lbs for only a few reps. I felt stronger, I could feel that my muscles were becoming more dense, but my weight wasn’t going down. In fact, over the last year or so it has traveled back into the 190’s despite being relatively good with diet and consistent exercise. Surprisingly my measurements haven’t changed dramatically though I do admit my clothing is not fitting as well as it should.

This brings me to AltShift. After trying a higher carb IIFYM approach I knew that counting, weighing and measuring was not for me. I also knew that eating over 150g of carbs every day only served to make me gain weight rapidly and make me bloated and uncomfortable. AltShift rotates between prioritizing fat and carbohydrates and requires only that one be sensible in portion sizes and stick to Paleo food sources. I am hoping to follow their template over the next few months and document my progress week by week. If you are interested in reading more, visit the link to AltShift above. The book is currently selling for $25.00 and is a steal!

My hope is to lose 1lb of fat per week into the first week of December. I will be weighing myself weekly however I will be using my body measurements to track my progress along with the numbers I move in the gym. The first time I lost weight was rapid and more due to under eating than anything else. I am looking forward to the physique I can build for myself through solid nutrition and weight training.

How to Cure Anxiety with Food


This is a fairly personal post for me to be sharing. It seems anxiety and depression is on the rise, particularly in women. I felt that a lot of people could relate to my story and perhaps find hope and some tools to recover. I’ll outline a bit of background as to what triggered my panic attacks in my youth just so you can get a picture of what my life looked like while suffering from mental illness.

 

When I was in the 8th grade I was diagnosed with having a Panic Disorder. It had come on fiercely, though not so suddenly. I had always suffered from anxiety as a child though was too young to understand what it was. I didn’t have the cognitive capacity to examine myself or how I was feeling because as a child, I was still busy being a kid and my thoughts and feelings seemed to change on a whim.

The day that I recall my anxiety coming on full force was when I was entered into a competition for playing piano. I felt off all day leading up to the event. I felt obligated to still compete even though I was nauseated, weak and unfocused. Though I was able to complete my piece (I still won a medal despite how  I felt!), I didn’t make it out of my pew before projectile vomiting in front of everyone and all over myself. I felt trapped, like I couldn’t escape because it just kept coming. I felt like I had ruined everything for everyone by being sick like that. I still remember my mom’s, sigh of “Ohh Sandra…” as I was helplessly hunched over in the Church pew.

I continued to be sick for 24 hours. I have never before or since been that ill in my life.  However, after this incident I couldn’t leave the house without feeling sick. Every time I had to go somewhere new, with new people and especially if I had to eat somewhere that wasn’t home I would begin to panic. I didn’t understand that I was feeling panic, I just thought that I had something physically wrong with me (the hypochondriac in me thought I had stomach cancer) and ended up going through multiple blood tests, ultra sounds and stomach x-rays to figure out why I was always nauseous. Eventually my doctor deduced that at the age of 12 I had developed an anxiety disorder.

I have been in therapy multiple times. I have seen many people in many different places, prompted by varying circumstances. I would go through months where I wouldn’t have panic attacks and other times it would seem that I would have multiple a day. It would come on fast, and I would be incapacitated. Over time, I socially began to withdraw as I couldn’t go to the movies, to dinner or to any other outing without feeling “off.” My friends invited me out less, and I isolated myself more. I had been shy, depressed and anxious as a child but now that I knew that I had this issue, my brain began going into over drive every time I had to leave the house. I ended up taking Gravol every day before I went to school, after lunch and if I had to work that evening I’d take another before work. It was all I could do to force myself through the school day and through my shifts without wanting to pass out or be sick. I always had to carry a huge purse filled with mints, gum, bottled water, gravol, pepto bismol and anything else that might help or distract me from how awful I felt at all times.

My interest in school had never been strong but had been taken to a new low by the time I was in my senior year of high school. The more anxious I became, the more depressed I was. The more depressed I was, the less I showed up for school. I ended up quitting the job I had been at for several years and barely skimmed by my high school courses. While all of my peers were preparing to apply to university and college, I was preparing for my own death. I began to feel that I was incapable of functioning in the regular world like everyone else and that my state of existence was a burden to everyone and so decided it was better for the people in my life and myself to disappear. It was during this time that I learned that mental illness ran in my family. My grandfather had been hospitalized for months due to an emotional breakdown and an aunt was bi-polar, both on my mother’s side. I moved back in with my parents and resigned to socializing almost exclusively on the internet.

Jumping ahead a few years, I had moved cross country three times due to a very toxic relationship. I ended up in the Okanagan first. While there were a lot of issues with my first move, I felt that I had found some friends who I connected with. They were much younger than me, and I felt that by spending time with them that I was able to catch up on a lot of fun and experiences that I had passed up or missed out on because of the extent of my anxiety disorder. While living in the Okanagan from 2006 – 2008 my mental illness was tame with the exception of one emotional breakdown that landed me in the emergency room. Otherwise,  I was physically very active and healthy (at least compared to what I had been). I was in the aforementioned toxic relationship but I was  going to university finally at the age of 21, I had a wide group of friends, I walked everywhere and I felt a certain sort of freedom that I didn’t have during elementary or high school. When school didn’t work out and money was running low, I moved back home in February of 2008 only to move back West to Vancouver 10 months after moving home. I had hoped to recapture my experience in the Okanagan. It ended up leading my anxiety to transform into agoraphobia.

Things with my roommates didn’t work out and we went our separate ways. I ended up living with someone who was never home and who was stressful to deal with as a living partner. I had a single friend in the city who had moved to the downtown core. I could not bring myself to drive there as “big cities” were terrifying for me. The only social interaction I had was with people on the internet and my co-workers. I became afraid to go to the bank. I could not bring myself to go to the grocery store. I resorted to eating only what I could buy through a drive-thru or pick up quickly from the 24hr Shoppers Drug Mart on the way home from work. Putting gas in my car became a chore. Eventually it came to a point where I couldn’t bring myself to walk around my own neighbourhood and the only time I ever went outside was to walk to my car and back. The only reason I was ever able to leave the house outside of work was because I owned 2 cats and my sense of duty over took my fear and I was able to talk myself into going to the store to get them food. I would have to repeat to myself over and over: “If I can just get a bag of cat food it will be OK… If I happen to see some fruit and veggies that I can grab quickly on my way to the register, then I will get those too.” Often times I couldn’t handle standing in line long enough for the cashier to even scan through fruits of vegetables so would not buy them. I would always select the cashier I knew to be fastest to prevent myself from being in store any longer than necessary. I would be shaking the entire time, heart pounding out of my chest, scanning constantly for the exit, for a washroom, for somewhere safe that I could run to in case it go too bad. It always felt like it was “too bad,” so I often avoided going anywhere what so ever.

In my isolation I had realized that if something ever happened to me, some accident or tragedy, no one would know for days, maybe weeks. It was the loneliest point of my life when it hit me that I had no one. I had made one new friend in the city at this point who I talked to regularly but couldn’t go out and do things with because of my fear. I toyed again with the idea of disappearing, truly believing that my life was no longer worth living. I never followed through only because I was concerned for the well being of my pets should I die. So I forced myself to the walk in clinic. I sat in my car for what felt like 30 minutes, windows rolled up in the summer heat, trying to slow my breathing, my heart beat and to stop myself from feeling like I was going to freeze to death.  From then, as I had to do with work, I talked myself into driving to the first stop sign, then the first intersection, then to the parking lot. I stayed there for as long as I could stand it, knowing that if I didn’t go NOW that the clinic would close and I’d have to suffer through another day like this which I just could not do.

The doctor I saw was very good. He talked to me patiently and slowly. I sat, staring at my shaking hands which were clutching my water bottle, chewing wildly on a piece of gum, shaking my knees and trying to keep upright. Over time, I began to relax in his office and understood that if anything bad was going to happen, at least I was in the right place for it. He told me that no matter what I do, never miss work because I was anxious or depressed. He wrote me a small subscription for Ativan for times when my anxiety felt like an emergency and referred me to a therapist.

Danielle, my therapist, was wonderful. By the time I ended up seeing her I had tried every coping mechanism in the book. I had read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, investigated different methods of meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, supplements, vitamins, etc. I had tried anti-depressants (which lead to the first suicidal episode) and I extensive diary writing. I ended up under eating trying to keep the nausea away that came from anxiety. I tried Z-Point strategies, binaural beats and I tried sleeping with different kinds of stones under my pillow to get their “calming energy.” Danielle was surprised at the amount of coping mechanisms I employed to get through my day to day life. She was surprised that, overall, I didn’t use the Ativan, that I still showed up for work and for the most part (as far as agoraphobes go) I was able to function. Because there was not much she could teach me to cope with the anxiety, it naturally followed that we ended up discussing my inability to distinguish my emotions, the fact that I stuffed all of my feelings down and that I had never had an opportunity to talk to anyone about being Catfished (what lead me to move to BC in the first place). She, and the doctors I had previously seen chalked my anxiety up to genetics and that I’d always have it on some level, and somehow that was a relief to me. So I set it aside.

Through my sessions with Danielle I was able to unload a lot that had been on my mind but that I felt no one could really understand. I was able to sort out my emotions about the abusive relationship I had been in while living in BC. I was able to start pouring out things that I had kept to myself for many years and was able to feel a lot more freedom. She constantly praised my strength and ability to cope and through these events and this gave me a great deal of confidence. I began to reclaim a lot of emotional strength that I had lost and was able to form new relationships and overall be more social.

While teaching me how to identify my emotions Danielle also gave me a booklet about Eating for Anxiety. It explained how insulin spikes could cause panic attacks in some individuals and that some foods were better for maintaining blood sugar levels than others. It outlined very basic meals that I should focus on eating and in what quantity so as to keep my body in a physical state of calm. While I had tried so many other strategies it never occurred to me to look at my nutrition. The only time I considered my food was during my various yo-yo dieting phases where I simply tried to eat less and less and less as opposed to eating enough of the right kinds of foods, and I succeeded at eating less until some days I was consuming as little as 700 calories for an entire day.

I ended up doing some research and stumbled upon The Paleo Diet.

 

Stay Tuned for Part 2 where I discuss Nutrition and how it relates to mental illness as well as what I ate to cure my anxiety and depression.

10 Month Progress / Update for Chris


As per my end of August post I had some goals from when I started out at the gym. These change greatly as I got into it and started playing with food to gain weight. There was a ton of tinkering with diet and workout plans and I did deal with some fuckarounditis. Below I will detail out what I did, the mistakes I made, as well as the successes and where my progress is.

Diet

My goal was to consume around 3600 calories on workout days and 2800 on off days. I sort of hit these goals but not quite the same and carbs were much lower as I found it too hard to get in over 200g of carbs a day. What I ended up doing was consuming close to 3500 on most days  with only a few hundred more on workout days. I would give myself 1-2 days on the weekend to just eat whatever or skip meals if I wanted. This would end up having me eat more or less. Carbs on workout days would be around 100-150g from rice or potato and some milk and fruit/veggies. It took me a little while to get to this point along the 10 months. I went through a period of time where I was eating keto style but not seeing much weight gain so then added the rice/potato. Also up until around January I barely if ever had a treat. Past January I would give myself a treat once a month then up to twice a month sometimes 3 times a month. Because I’m gaining weight I figure having some ice cream isn’t the worst thing in the world. I try to keep to foods that don’t make me feel bad.

I did run into a scare in April where I went out for Indian food and had a whole bunch of Naan bread. I was sick for 5 days and could barely eat any food. Anything I ate would feel horrible in the stomach like I was super bloated; even water. After over 3 days I decided to just do a fast. I ate zero food for a little over 24 hours, only water and salt. After that I felt pretty good and a day or so later I was back to eating the way I was before and back on track. Lesson learned here was don’t eat so much bread. I can handle a tiny amount but it appears the large dose killed me. I doubt it was the other foods as I did share it with a friend and had all of the foods before so nothing new was ingested, only the naan bread. I am unsure if it was gluten or something else but all I know is I won’t be eating that anymore.

Training

When I started out in September I did deadlifts, squats, bench press, pull ups and overhead press. I had such bad DOMS that it took a week to recover and workout again. It wasn’t until October that I was able to go 2-3 times a week. I started out 3 times a week doing a stronglifts style workout and made some good progress. I was reading into Body By Science and wanted to try out those kinds of workouts twice a week. I found them brutal and fun but it quickly got boring. Come December/January I changed up my program again to 3 days a week stronglifts again and added in a few accessory workouts after the mains. Come February/March I changed up again to a leangains style pyramid program 3 days a week which I liked but a month later wasn’t really into the progress and felt like I was doing too many things each day. In April I started stronglifts again but I had to deload quite a lot because I was worried about form issues. I worked back up to my previous lifting PRs and broke them. Squats broke 200lbs and deadlifts broke 235. I started getting some lower back pain in May so posted a video online for form check. I got some good feedback so posted another and it was looking better. I since further refined my form and feel great now. In June I switched to Wendler 531 and will be sticking with this for a while as I love it. I am on week 3 right now and making great progress. Bench press was a weak point and couldn’t budge past 105 for 5 reps. Today I did 115 for 15 reps.

One thing I learned from this video was that for bench press, an incline and decline are the best and only ways I should be training. I have taken this advice and do my heavy sets at flat and I end with 3 sets incline for 10 reps and same for decline. Sebastian has a bunch of other muscle masterclass videos that I have been going through and am loving the information.

Note: Deadlifts I did slack on for a few months and only did squats so my squats improved greater than deadlifts. I filled in some gaps with default numbers in my spreadsheet to make it flow. 

Progress

When I started my weight was 135lbs and I was at 7-8% body fat. I had no muscle definition at all. I regret not taking photos but was kind of ashamed I guess at how skinny I was and didn’t really care about documenting the initial stages. I just wanted to get in and start lifting and gaining. Below is a graph of my progress. I am currently at 157 or so. I have some large gaps in tracking as I slacked off on that front but have made a nice spreadsheet to make it easy to track weekly.

weight gain to June 23

As for strength gains I have made some great improvements in all aspects. Below are upper and lower body charts to show progress. My numbers are calculated 1RM values based on my workout. Wendler 531 spreadsheet calculates this for you which is nice.

Lower body strength gains  to June 23

Upper body strength gains  to June 23

 

I have also started calculating my Wilks Score; Where you simply put in sex, weight, and weight lifted and it calculates a score based on those values to normalize it. If you lift the same amount but weigh 50 lbs heavier your score will be lower.

Wilks Scores to June 23

 

Goals

Going forward I have set goals for measurements and lifts. My measurement goals are insane and will take a long ass time. I used a website to calculate my muscular potential for my frame size and height and just put those max numbers as my goals. For this it sets my weight at 205 lbs. I would imagine this is a 5+ year goal. For strength goals I set it based on percentage of my weight. These goals I likely can achieve by end of year. Below is a chart of my goals for strength as well as Wilks scores on the right side:

Squat 315 (2 x Body-Weight) 98
Deadlift 400 (2.5 x Body-Weight) 124.5
Bench Press 235 (1.5 x Body-Weight) 73.13
Overhead press 115 (0.75 x Body-Weight) 295.63

 

Faults and Fixes

I will create a list of the things I did wrong and to learn from going forward:

  • Messing around with lifting programs so much. This caused my progress to stagnate and slow. Best thing to do is find a program and stick to it for a while and if you change things up research before and commit to the change. I find that I get too caught up with numbers and what is efficient and keep changing. I know enough now to stick with what I have
  • Being complacent with form. I felt that I had form down because I had a trainer and watched tons of videos online but it’s just too hard to translate it once you have the weight up high enough and you need to take videos to check and have others look as well.
  • I did not really have issues with food but I will note it is key to understand what works for you and keep consistent with it. Eating what you enjoy is better than eating something you hate just because someone said it was better. Sometimes you have to suck it up though and eat something you don’t like as much. I don’t eat as many veggies as I ought to and try to do more of it. I tend to go in cycles of almost no veggies to some where I am having big ass salads everyday. Maybe that is best to listen to your body and what you crave. Just being aware if you crave sugar that is bad and ignore. If you are craving something that is healthy just eat it.
  • Not asking for help. When doing some lifts it is fine to ask someone close by for a quick spot if you know you are going to failure. it can help you get 1-2 more reps out
  • Not progressing with every lift. It is key to keep adding weight each time you work out a muscle or increase reps. If you can only do 5 reps this week, do 6-7 reps the next and keep going until 10 reps then increase the weight.
  • Lifting to failure as much as you can. If you lift a certain weight but stop at 8 reps but you could have done more then you absolutely HAVE to increase the weight for the next session. Learning how to judge true failure and the point where you kind of feel like stopping takes some practice and time. having a friend there to egg you on to do more helps figure this out.

 

Progress photos

I will put these at the bottom as they will take up some space. I did not take too many photos of myself  so will show the ones I did take with corresponding weights I was at.

2013

Around march 2013 I was doing bodyweight routine by nerdfitness and took a photo right after a workout. At this point I do not know my weight. I thought I was 135 but that was a mistake and I was between 140-145

March 2013 - 145 lbs

August this photo was taken at new house. I stopped working out bodyweight style and just started again. This was me right after a workout with all my pump. At this point I was around 135 lbs. Without the pump I looked a lot thinner.

SAMSUNG

Fast forward to January 2014. Here I am 145 lbs or so. At this point I stopped taking photo after workout to skew. I am flexing here.

January - 145 lbs

 

 

April these 2 photos below were taken. Got one of my back and front flexed. I am 149 lbs at this point

April 5 2014 - 149 lbsApril 5 2014 - 149 lbs back

Beginning of May. I had only gained a few pounds from last photos. Only abs flexed and back.

May 6 2014 - 151 lbsMay 6 2014 - Flexed Back - 151 lbs

As of this month here are my recent photos. I am at 157 here. Trimmed chest/stomach hair as well to cut down on the itching. Here only abs flexed.

June 18 2014 - Front - 157 lbsJune 18 2014 - Back - 157 lbs