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My Fitness Journey: 9 Years of Ups and Downs Part 3

In my last post, I left off with my recovery from a bad relationship with food and my elimination of steady state cardio. It was something I knew I needed to do for a long time, but it didn’t make it easy. While it was difficult mentally, it was made a bit easier by the fact that I almost effortlessly lost 10lbs in the first 2 months of putting focus on weight training, doing very little cardio, and eating foods I wanted to eat without feeling guilt.

Slowly but surely, my goals started to change towards getting stronger and the emphasis on “losing weight” was dwindling.

Throughout the rest of 2013 and into 2014, I started to really remember why I got into this in the first place and started to remember my roots. I was taught how to lift weights first and foremost, and that was what I loved most.

I continued counting calories throughout all of these years. At some point, I switched from Sparkpeople over to My Fitness Pal, but I’m 99% sure that there isn’t a day in the last 9 years that my food isn’t tracked somewhere. Impressive? maybe. Scary? Definitely. It’s a sign that my relationship with food could still be improved.

Over the last 2 years, I’ve been really comfortable with my body and even though I’m not the lean bikini-competitor girl I once was, I’ve actually grown to love the body I do have, added body fat and all.

But still, there is a part of me that has wanted redemption. A part of me that wants to say a giant FUCK YOU to my eating disorder and to show it that I’m better than that, stronger than that, and can get lean WITHOUT losing my mind. It’s a me vs. me that I haven’t quite figured out yet, but also haven’t given up on.

I’ve tried a few times and have seen some success, but ultimately have failed. I’m actually not embarrassed to admit that, it just shows that I still have work to do when it comes to my relationship with food and my mindset.

I’ve worked with great coaches (Sohee and Erik) that have each taught me some valuable lessons, but ultimately, a coach can’t do the work for you. I’m a personal trainer and know this first-hand. I can’t make my clients take action, work hard, show up, etc. I can only guide them. The coaches I’ve had helped me as best as they could and I did see results and made progress with each of them. BUT, there has always been a fear in me that by heading down the road to fat loss, that I’ll end up in the same position I was in back in 2009. It’s, what I believe, has subconsciously held me back and made me self-sabotage my efforts.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about it over the last few months as I’ve tried to figure myself out and this is what I do know:

-I’ve been able to maintain my weight more or less for the last few years at a weight/look that I am comfortable with

-I’ve been able to lose fat, but haven’t really been able to keep it off (that’s the self-sabotage)

-I’ve gotten stronger and have continued to kick ass in the gym

-I’ve been paying entirely too much attention to what I eat

Did that last one make your head turn? Every article you read asks that you pay attention to what you eat. But this is what has really been striking me as of late. I’ve been tracking my food intake for 9 years and while that can be a great tool for some, I realize that I also have ZERO clue about what my body needs WITHOUT looking to see how much protein/carbs/fat/calories I’ve had for the day. I don’t pay attention to hunger cues very much other than when I’m hungry, I check to see how much i can eat without going over my numbers.

I’ve come to the realization that by tracking everything I put in my body, I’ve become completely obsessive. I could probably tell you how many calories are in almost any serving of food you present to me. I know HOW to eat, yet I rely on calculators. Exclusively.

I think tracking was a great thing for me for a long time, and in the future it may be a great tool for me again, but for now? I think it’s time for me to break up with My Fitness Pal.

I think I need to take a leap of faith and start learning to eat based on my hunger cues and what my body needs, as opposed to choosing to eat based on what the numbers are telling me. This may sound counterintuitive to some, but I believe it is a necessary step in my journey.

There is a good chance that in doing this, I’ll gain weight initially because I won’t really know how much I’m eating. At the same time, I do believe that over time, I’ve been doing this long enough (and know how to properly put meals together to fuel my training) that I think it will benefit me in the long run. I think it will be the key to me putting all this shit behind me FOR GOOD.

It’s a giant unknown, but is something I’ve pondered a lot in the recent months. It’s scary and that may sound silly to some, but it’s been my security blanket for 9 years. I think it’s time to pay attention to my body, and not my data.

It was a good run My Fitness Pal…and Spark People? Thank you for your help over the years, but it’s time. It’s time for me to give up the trackers for a while. Maybe I’ll be back to them, but for the next few months, they’ve gotta go.

FAREWELL TRACKERS

*I appreciate all of you that read through all 3 parts of this. It was a lot and definitely wasn’t easy to write. It’s a tough subject for me, but at the same time, if I can help even one person, it’s worth it. I believe going through that is part of what makes me a great personal trainer and coach to others. I’ve been there, I understand the struggle, and I’ve (mostly) gotten away from it. I’m not perfect, I haven’t solved everything, but I’ve been through quite a bit and have helped others in their journey as well. Please feel free to reach out to me (or someone) if you need help. You can e-mail me at fitlizzio@gmail.com or leave a comment on this post. 

My Fitness Journey: 9 Years of Ups and Downs Part 2

I left you all in part 1 with the day I competed in July 2009. I was more than ready and felt great. I looked great too. After my show, my coaches all told me how impressed they were. They said I nailed my peak week and looking incredible on stage. Mind you, this was only the 2nd NPC Bikini show, so it wasn’t a huge thing like it is today. I think there were 7 people in my height class and maybe 30-40 total competing in bikini that day. Not many people were doing this and social media wasn’t really “poppin'” at the time. I’m pretty sure i was still on myspace….

This was my myspace profile pic at the time..don’t judge me haha

And we're off!

Anyways, this is where things got bad. Up to this point, I had been fighting off my poor relationship with food. I had kept it at bay because I knew I had to compete. Once I was off the stage, I lost control. I had scheduled a photo shoot for the day after my show with Bret’s brother Joel (who is an amazing photographer). I binged right before the photo shoot and tried throwing up so that I could suck it in enough for our photos (I don’t think I succeeded by the way). I was super lean, so a lot of food actually just made my veins pop a lot, but it was the start of a very long spiral down a shitty, shitty road.

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(a photo from the shoot)

I had planned on competing in another competition 5 weeks after my first show, but with Fitness America this time (a different federation). A lot of the ladies that I’d been posing with were doing it, so I wanted to do it with them. I had become close with many of them and it just sounded really fun.few pics. more to come

I binged 1x/week leading up to that show and couldn’t really control it. It showed on stage. I placed 5th and was told afterwards that they’d like to see me a little bit leaner for next time. I knew I didn’t look my best (although I’d argue that was the best my butt has EVER looked haha).

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 5.48.59 PM(i’m on the right)

I had qualified for Nationals at my first show and was planning on doing a national show in October or November, but from here on out, I just couldn’t get myself together. And so started what would be the most miserable couple years of my life. Battling an eating disorder.

I gained about 25-30 lbs in a short time, and felt awful. It’s a funny thing that happens. You get used to seeing yourself so lean, that only a few pounds makes you feel HUGE. The cycle becomes this: you binge, you’re REALLY bloated since you don’t normally eat like that and your body isn’t used to it, you wake up the next day 10 lbs heavier (water weight mostly) and just feel like you look awful (and let’s face it, you look like shit because you’re holding so much water). You vow to not eat all day and you mostly don’t. You perform at least an hour of cardio to “work it off” and then in just a few days, you do it again. Before you know it, the scale is TRULY going up and you’re depressed about it so then it starts again. It’s a cycle of binge, restrict, binge, restrict, and it is VERY common in the competition world. I know so many that dealt with the same issues, although at the time, I thought I was the only one and was very quiet about it. There weren’t a bunch of articles about the issues, and nobody talked about it. I was completely ashamed and watched as my friends stepped on stage. I wrote out my goals, started telling people I was “x” weeks out, and kept trying to get myself together. Eventually I started telling people I was bulking. That was a lie. I wasn’t bulking, I was just not comfortable telling people I had an eating disorder. That I couldn’t eat 1 cookie without eating the whole box. That I couldn’t enjoy any food that I didn’t know EXACTLY what was in it. It was embarrassing and I just wanted to hide from it all (even though it was very apparent something was wrong).

I remember my sister’s wedding. I looked awful. I look at those photos now and it doesn’t even look like me.

makeup(getting ready for the wedding…this is one of the “good” ones)

I remember standing in my dad’s kitchen and him asking “are you gaining weight?” I freaked out and responded “I DONT KNOW DAD” and stomped out.

The thing is, when you get in really good shape, people start telling you how much they look up to you. How they wish they could be like you. How they wish they had the determination that you have. And it feels really, really good. So when you start to unravel, you feel like you’ve not only let yourself down, but everyone else too. Everyone starts to expect that you’re the one that’s going to be eating healthy all the time, working out, and looking awesome. At least that’s what it FEELS like they expect. Whether they do or not, I’m not sure. I can tell you that I not only felt pressure from myself, but pressure from my peers that looked up to me. My family that had complimented my successes. My friends that couldn’t believe I would bring my own fish and veggies on the boat with me to the lake.

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I moved to Los Angeles in May 2011 and the disordered eating continued. It wasn’t until late 2012 that I finally started getting a handle on it. I finally decided that I was going to be OK with who I was, no matter how i looked. This was me and I could either continue to dwell on the past, or I could start anew. I knew that I had to allow myself to eat what I wanted in order to rid myself of the “guilt” I had from eating “forbidden” foods.

At first it wasn’t pretty, but over time, the glamour of a cookie wasn’t really that glamorous anymore. I could eat 1 cookie and be fine with it. I didn’t need to eat the entire bag of chips. I could eat a subway sandwich and not feel like I was a giant loser. In the past, I had not allowed myself to eat ANY of that stuff in the presence of others. I felt like i had an image to uphold, so this was a big step for me.

Over time, I was able to create a healthier relationship with food. I found that most of the time, I actually LIKED eating healthy foods. I ate junk when I wanted it, but it actually wasn’t that often. I finally felt like a normal person again.

I followed that up with giving up cardio. That was another piece that I knew needed to go. In the past, if I didn’t stand on the elliptical or treadmill for at least 30 minutes a day, I felt off. It was useless, and yet that tiny little bit of sweat I drew up made me feel OK so that I could move on with my day. Cardio came before weight training at that point and I knew that needed to change.

Oddly enough, as my relationship with food changed for the better and my physical activity decreased, I actually started losing weight. I dropped 10 lbs in about 2 months and finally started looking like ME again….

2013-07-15 21.42.25

Part 3 is up next…

My Fitness Journey: 9 Years of Ups & Downs Part 1

Hello friends!

It’s been a while, but I believe that this blog has grown up with me, and that means it has changed quite a bit from what it was in 2008! I’ll be turning 28 in just 8 days and life is busy. Daily blogging just isn’t what I want to be doing right now in my life, and I’d rather have great content than just content. This blog houses almost 7 years of posts (on and off) and documents so much of my fitness journey. From the days of competing all the way until now with my focus mainly being hitting PRs. I’m so thankful for this outlet and hope that at some point, it’s been helpful to you as well.

I want to discuss something today that I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few months. If you are sensitive to food-related or eating disorder topics, I suggest skipping this post.

Let’s start from the beginning: 2007

It was August 2007 when I started working out for real. I had played sports my whole life and briefly had a personal trainer when I was in high school (thanks mom!), but I was not really committed and probably only went a handful of times. I count the start of my journey as the day I walked into Bret‘s gym and worked out for the first time. Up to that point, I had eaten whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I was thin most of my life and because I was so active, the plethora of junk food and fast food never really settled into my body. I did start to notice that changing a little bit when I was 19 and wasn’t active at all anymore, which is why I decided to do something about it. I didn’t start dieting then, but Bret and Jordan (my coaches at Lifts) encouraged me to start making better food choices. I vividly remember sitting in the lounge at Lifts eating turkey and grapes after my workout almost every day. (Maybe that’s where my love for grapes started).

I eventually started incorporating cardio into my life (because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do when you worked out) and then started counting calories. I was using Spark People (a food tracking website) at the time to track my food intake. I didn’t pay any attention to the types of foods I was eating other than I tried to eat healthy food most of the time and my goal was to keep my calories around 1800 each day. I ate a lot of Kashi heart to heart, fruit, frozen dinners, and other low-calorie foods on the market. I lost about 10lbs in a short time and I was skinny. I believe I was about 132 lbs at this point and didn’t have much muscle. (I’m 5’7)

I remember the summer of 2008 is when I started having some issues with food and was slightly battling the urge to binge eat. It wasn’t a huge problem at the time, but I do remember being obsessive over my weight and body. I gained back the 10 lbs I had lost over about 6 months and I remember going into Lifts and we would all joke about the fact that I was now closer to 140 lbs. “EEK” was the term we used. It didn’t really bother me that much, but over time I started to feel out of control with my eating. (side note before anyone thinks this wasn’t cool: the coaches and clients at Lift were like family to me, so we all constantly gave each other a hard time about stuff..it was all in good fun and i gave it right back)

Towards the end of 2008 I had had enough. I had been reading articles on bodybuilding.com for long enough and had started to see that they were introducing a Bikini division in the NPC (a bodybuilding federation). The first show was going to be in March and while I wanted to do that, I knew it wasn’t enough time so I decided to prepare for the next show in July 2009. A few days before 2009 began, I swore off binge eating, jumped right into clean eating, which meant nothing artificial, lots of chicken, egg whites, sweet potatoes, vegetables, fruit, oatmeal, and brown rice. For the first several months, I felt really damn good and it was actually pretty easy to follow. I didn’t follow a set meal plan, but instead made sure I had protein at each meal with a complex carb and a veggie. I included fats a few times per day and kept my calories at around 1800-2200 each day (via Sparkpeople lol). I didn’t have any urges to binge, I was just on a roll. I was working out several hours per day and was finding that I was so motivated and seeing results so quickly, that eating clean became really easy for me. It all became easy actually. I was boxing 2 hours per week, doing cardio 5-6 hours per week, and lifting weights 5-6 hours per week. I wasn’t restricting too much with food on a caloric level, but I was restricting food choices a LOT. (I wouldn’t add salt to anything, I wouldn’t eat ketchup, I wouldn’t use spray oil on my pans, etc.)

progress 5.16.09 014

Eventually, as with anything, it became harder to stick to. I was getting super lean (see above) and was planning to compete in July, but I had done so well with training and eating (and being 21 years old with a fast metabolism) that I was ready to compete by May-ish. This gave me some lee-way and I started incorporating a 1x/week cheat day. I would get up early every Saturday, go to Sprouts or Whole Foods, buy “healthy” junk food and eat about 2000-3000 calories over a 2-3 hour period. Then I wouldn’t eat for the rest of the day and I’d keep myself busy hanging by the pool or with friends. Still, at this point, things were manageable.

I competed in July 2009, placed 2nd, looked amazing, and then all hell broke loose….

Lizzy compete 21

-To be Continued…

5 Ways to Love the Skin You’re In {My Story}

*If you are sensitive to or think a post about disordered eating/a poor relationship with food may be a trigger for you, please skip this post.

I’ve spoken about it on the blog before, but in case you’re new around here, let me give you a little background about me.

At the end of 2008, I got the wild idea to compete in an NPC Competition in the Bikini division. I actually really wanted to compete in the Figure division, but I had only been working out for 2 years and didn’t have much muscle mass. I spent from January – July training, doing a bunch of cardio, and dieting for the competition. The results were really good.

progress pictures

December 2008 – 147 pounds

progress pictures

July 2009 – 123 pounds (i’m 5’8)

I placed 2nd in my first show, got instantly hooked on the stage high and decided to compete again 5 weeks later. I placed 5th at that show, although there were definite politics involved (as there always will be in the fitness industry).

From there, everything basically went to shit.

I had been dieting for 7 months at this point, and my will-power was wavering. I had made so many foods “off limits” that eating even just a bite of something that I had labeled “bad” set me off in a spiral. I had failed and therefore, I might as well throw this day in the trash and eat my face off.

This happened every now and then. But it started to become more frequent. I was literally spinning out of control and felt that I couldn’t stop myself.

I’d feel guilty and terrible after spending my day eating junk food, and try to make up for it by doing endless cardio (I once ran 10 miles on a treadmill to try to counteract what I had eaten the day before), and restricting my food even more. I would literally try to not eat all day or to eat as few carbs as possible. It was awful.

The cycle continued on for over a year and I was becoming depressed, gaining weight (I was bigger than I’d ever been in my life) and feeling completely lost. I thought for sure that this was how my life would be forever.

This was my heaviest. I wasn't that big, but for my body, it was way bigger than I'd ever been. I don't even recognize myself in this photo.

This was my heaviest. I weighed 163. I wasn’t that big, but for my body, it was way bigger than I’d ever been. I don’t even recognize myself in this photo.

It wasn’t until about 2010 that I started to “figure it out”. I can’t remember or pinpoint what exactly changed, but I do remember that I decided that there was nothing I could do about the weight I had gained and that I might as well be happy with the way I looked and work on myself from there, rather than missing what I had before. It was kind of like a bad breakup. I had to make the concerted effort to move on, in order to actually do so. While my mind wasn’t healthy, my body was, I could still workout like a beast, and I tried to really force myself to believe I was still beautiful, even though I was 25 pounds heavier than I was when I stepped on stage.

I decided to let myself eat what I wanted to eat. I still kept track of what I ate (and still do to this day), but if I wanted to eat a previously labeled “bad” food, I would eat it. At first, you better believe that I didn’t have any control. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and all my troubles went away.

It took me almost 2 years to rid myself of the horrible relationship with food I had. You see, over time, it became easier to eat just 1 cookie, or have just 1 small bowl of ice cream. It became easier to put the bag of chips away before they were all gone.

In 2012, I did something even more drastic. I gave up cardio.

I had known that doing a bunch of cardio wasn’t necessary, but I couldn’t really let myself believe it. I somehow, even though I knew better, still led myself to believe that I NEEDED to do cardio almost every day.

The funny thing that happened through all of this, with allowing myself to eat whatever I wanted and giving up cardio, is that I started to lose weight.

I wasn’t even trying, and yet, my clothes were fitting better and I could see more lines in my body.

Oddly enough, when I allowed “bad” foods back into my life, I realized that I didn’t actually like to eat junk food all that much. I’m much happier eating healthy proteins, fruit, vegetables, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and many other healthy foods. Did I still like having frozen yogurt every now and then? Absolutely. But I didn’t feel the need to have it all the time. And more importantly, I could eat it without feeling like I needed more, more, more.

Giving up cardio was tough at first, but I started getting stronger. My weight training was improving, I was lifting heavier weights, and my body was leaning out.

What makes this most interesting to me is that I would advise my clients to do EXACTLY what I had finally started doing myself. I KNEW it was the best formula for years, yet, I couldn’t heed my own advice.

Because I was messed up. I had a full-blown eating disorder, hidden from the world (only not really), and felt that there was no way out.

Here I am in 2015, and I have a great relationship with food. I now train to get stronger. I do HIIT a few times a week for conditioning, because I want a strong heart. I now eat to feed my inner badass. To feed the superhero, workout warrior that I feel like I am. And sometimes? I eat because I have a craving. I no longer set myself up for failure, which I was inadvertently doing from January 2009 – August 2009.

On the blog at FitLizzio.com. Progress pics + workouts for the week.

March 2015 151 pounds

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May 2015 – 148 lbs

Shoulders are growing. WOOHOO!! Happy Friday!Large Blog ImageNew blog post is up on FitLizzio.com. I'm on my soap box today talking about how you can stop saying I CAN'T....and start doing more than you thought possible....link in profile.

I eat what I want, when I want for the most part. Of course, I still have goals and I still am working towards a leaner body. But I’m patient. And I know that restrict, restrict, restrict is NOT the answer for me. So I’m allowing myself to slowly get to where I want to be. And I’m enjoying foods that satisfy me along the way. There is nothing wrong with having weight loss goals, but how you go about them is extremely important. I learned the hard way.

This is part of the reason I feel that I can connect with so many others that are trying to lose weight. I’ve been where you are. I’ve been through A LOT. And on top of that, I’ve been educating myself for almost 10 years about nutrition, weight loss, strength training, sports specific training and cardiovascular health.

With that said, here are 5 Ways to Love the Skin You’re In..and let go of your poor relationship with food.

1. Stop labeling foods. This was by far the worst thing I’ve ever done. Processed food isn’t BAD. If you ONLY eat processed foods? It’s probably not a good thing, but having some Cheetos or a Twix bar every now and then is totally fine. In fact, I encourage people to eat at least SOME kind of treat each day. It helps keep wild cravings from coming on. (And yes, you can still do this even while you’re trying to lose fat.)

2. Be happy where you are. This was the biggest part of my recovery. I reminded myself EVERY time I looked in the mirror to be happy with where I was today and to know I could only improve from there on out. You only have one body, and treating it poorly both mentally and physically will not help you. By treating your body like a temple and keeping your thoughts about your body positive, you will have a better chance at starting to believe those thoughts. By repeating this to myself DAILY, sometimes HOURLY, I actually started to believe it. I started feeling comfortable with myself once again.

3. Make your goals fitness-based. The weight loss will follow. When I stopped working out to lose weight and started working out to be more fit, be the warrior I felt like inside, get stronger, run faster….I actually started losing weight. My fitness goals now are to get stronger. I want to squat 200lbs, I want to deadlift 300 lbs, and I want to Hip Thrust 400 lbs. Whether you want to accomplish a big goal like running a faster 5k, or just complete a small goal like getting in more reps today than you did yesterday, you will feel gratitude each time you hit those goals and start feeling more positive in the gym. It doesn’t mean you can’t strive to lose weight, but don’t let it be your main focus. Let it be the side effect of your goals.

4. Be mindful of what you eat. This doesn’t just mean to try to eat healthy foods when you can. This also means that sometimes, having a cookie IS the right answer. Sometimes an extra serving of ice cream is OK. Just not every day. Over time, as you start to develop a better relationship with food, you will find that you trust yourself with food and won’t feel the need to eat #allthecookies. You will start to know when you REALLY want a cookie and you’ll pass on them when it just doesn’t feel necessary. (If you would have told me this a few years ago, I would have told you that it isn’t possible. Your mind tricks you into thinking that you will never be able to think like a “normal” person when it comes to food. I assure you, it is possible.)

5. Let go of the guilt. Whether you are currently struggling or have struggled in the past, let go of the guilt. You are NOT a failure. You are NOT a loser. You just got caught up in an unfortunate situation. No matter how you got there, remind yourself that you don’t have to stay there. Even when it feels like there is no way out, THERE IS. If you don’t feel that you can do it on your own, reach out to someone. There are many people out there JUST LIKE YOU that can help you deal with and overcome your issues.

 I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, but if you’d rather speak privately, feel free to e-mail me at FitLizzio@gmail.com