Category Archives: Health
I hope you will forgive the mini-hiatus. Since I didn’t take my usual break over the summer so I could share my weekly adventures of bikini competition prep, I needed a brief reprieve from writing. On this Transformation Tuesday, I’m back just in time for what I consider the pre-holiday, holiday rush.
- Drink water: Hydration is crucial year round, regardless of the weather. Not only does water helps regulate our body temperature and distribute nutrients and oxygen to our cells and organs, drinking water can actually alleviate fluid retention and decrease appetite. I’ve been doing my best to keep up my competition prep habit of drinking at leas one gallon of water each day. To make it easier to track how much water you drink in a day, treat yourself to an early Christmas or Hanukkah present and get water bottle that measures for you.
- Make Necessary Adjustments to Your Workout Schedule: The end of Daylight Saving means darker days are here till the spring of 2020. For many people – including yours truly – fewer hours of sunlight can wreak havoc on motivation to workout at the end of the day. If that includes you, consider switching to a pre-work workout. With so many on-demand fitness programs, you can even roll out of bed and right onto a yoga mat in your own living room to break a morning sweat. You can also consider designating a workout buddy to help you stay accountable for getting exercise sometime during the day. Finally, this is also a chance to check your gym’s group fitness schedule for that class you were curious about but never got to while you were outside running or walking during the summer and early fall.
- Be Prepared: I’m doing my best to continue cooking chicken, turkey, brown rice and veggies in bulk so I have several go-to healthy meals available each day. Just like you may know what time you’re working out on any given day, it can help to also have a game plan for what your meals will look like. Make sure you have healthy snacks with you at work or in your purse or gym bag. Raw almonds and green apples travel well. If you have access to a fridge, hard boiled eggs; non-fat plain Greek yogurt and of course, full meals with a healthy balance of protein, carbs and veggies can always be close by.
As I continue to recalibrate in this post-bikini competition life, I imagine you’ll forgive this short and sweet Transformation Tuesday post. As this unprecedented transformative phase continues, I’ve come to realize it’s good to embrace change in this life. Sure, it can be scary, but it can also open the doors to so many opportunities and experiences you never even knew existed.
One welcome form of normalcy came over the weekend when I joined a sea of pink zig-zagging its way through Central Park for another American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. Each year, I find myself in awe of the warrior spirit that pushes a great deal of walkers to complete the course with the assistance of a cane or the steady arm of a loved one. We differ in age, race, religion and political beliefs. However, on that Sunday morning, we were united with survivors, sons and daughters of survivors and those who lost a loved one to a disease that I hope will one day be nothing more than a footnote in an old textbook. To that end, it’s not to late to make a donation for this year’s Walk. If you’d like to join the fight as another Breast Cancer Awareness month winds down, simply click here to be taken to my Making Strides page. Every dollar counts in the fight against breast cancer and to help those battling the disease with everyday challenges. To all my generous supporters to date, I offer my heartfelt thanks.
The other event most likely coming to an end this week is my unexpected run in the Maxim Magazine Next Cover Girl contest. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support that helped this 45-year-old make the quarterfinals in a competition filled with beautiful women more than half my age. I ask you to continue casting those free daily votes for two more days so I make a strong finish in my group. (The quarterfinal round ends on the 24th at 11 pm ET.) Simply click here to view my link on the Maxim page. Thanks again for making this a surprising and fun ride!
As the fall marches on with lightning speed and we continue to adjust to cooler temperatures and a little less daylight every 24 hours, let’s get psyched for the challenges and surprises that lie ahead. Thank you to all my readers for sharing in so many big adventures in 2019. Cheers to what’s next in all our efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Nineteen days have passed since I stepped off the stage and started showering off the spray tan, but I’m still dealing with the aftermath of the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. While my daily routine isn’t as physically taxing as it was in the days, weeks and months leading up to my first bikini competition, I’ve been struggling with some anxiety and stress as I now have no excuse not to focus on the “what’s next?” in my life. I think it’s easiest to break down the state of my psyche into three areas:
- My weight: Since holding water can change the numbers daily, I’ve gained between six to eight pounds since show day. I knew I could never maintain my stage weight. Aside from living on a low-calorie diet, by competition time you’re not just a little “hangry,” you’re dehydrated, too. A big part of peak week is cutting back on your water intake so you look as “cut” as possible on stage. While I realize my weight today is a healthier, more sustainable number (which still comes with its own demand for discipline), it’s amazing how your mind can get the best of you if you let it. I shared this in last week’s post, and it’s something I find myself repeating to myself almost daily again this week: we should never define ourselves by just a number. Instead, we should focus on how we feel and most importantly, if we have the energy to do the things we enjoy with the people who matter the most.
- My diet: Of course, there’s a very simple reason for the weight gain: I’ve been enjoying the things I denied myself during 15 weeks of contest prep! The day after the show, I savored every morsel of sunny-side up eggs, crispy bacon and buttered rye toast. For dinner, it was filet mignon tidbits on top of a bed of buttery mashed potatoes and two glasses of Prosecco. However, in between, I was back to a prep meal: four ounces of chicken, a half-cup of brown rice and a cup of spinach. Since then, I’ve been trying to strike a balance between eating those clean prep meals during the day and enjoying a non-restrictive, but healthy dinner. (Yes, wine is usually involved…and probably some version of dessert, too.) James and I have resumed going out to dinner or ordering in a few nights a week. Most nights, I’ll be “good,” nursing one libation to go along with a grilled chicken paillard covered with greens. Other nights, I’m not-so-good, enjoying two drinks along with yummy cheat foods including sliders; mac-and-cheese and chicken parmesan. Nothing is off limits anymore, but I’m still working on getting my groove back to the no guilt, everything-in-moderation lifestyle I followed in the 45 years leading up to the competition.
- My workouts: What’s been the best part of post-show life? A return to kickboxing! After months of work in the weight room, I was ecstatic to feel more power than ever before when I unleashed hell on the heavy bag despite not attending a class since May 20th. I’ve also kept up with my weight training, and plan to stick with it. While I’ve never been a fan of leg days, I’ll make sure to keep a couple of them in my weekly routine. However, instead of five sets of goblet squats, leg presses or deadlifts, I’ll probably do four. Making some gains in the off-season can only help me start another prep period even stronger than the first time around.
The hardest part of my post-show life is the daily struggle to not be so hard on myself. If I need to go to bed a little earlier or crave another carb-loaded meal, I need to “forgive” myself and let it go. Luckily my husband, parents and friends are helping make the adjustment from pre- to post-show life more bearable. I know I accomplished a lot in 15 weeks and put my body and mind through something unlike anything else I’ve experienced. Now it’s time to be thankful for what’s happened and plan for what’s next. It just goes to show striking a healthy balance for the body, mind and soul is an ongoing challenge in our never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous.
I realize this is a completely out-of-the-ordinary day for me to share a post. Considering life has been pretty unusual during the past five moths, I figured I’d roll with it.
September 29th marked the beginning of life after the Brooklyn Grand Prix. I’m sure most people assumed I’d recover from the 15-week prep process by enjoying a little down time, taking a brief break from the weight room and re-introducing some libations and sweet treats into my life. However, as most of you probably know, I spent the seven days after the show gearing up for the true main event in my life – my wedding day! On October 5th, James and I surprised my parents – and the rest of our family and friends – with a beach-themed wedding on Long Island. The picture-perfect sunny day went off without a hitch and we started the next phase of our happily ever after. With the big day behind me, I’m now dealing with the ultimate physical and mental crash. After months of following a restrictive diet by the book; weight training six days a week; putting my social life on hold and planning a wedding day, my mind and body are basically screaming: “Okay, Laura, you pulled it off. Now it’s time to regroup a bit.”
Of course, I’m sure my fellow type-A personalities will agree sometimes taking your foot off the gas and regrouping can be the hardest part of reaching a long-awaited destination. As I mentioned many times throughout the process, I realized the contest prep lifestyle would never be sustainable if I wanted to get back to my normal social life. I’m totally fine with that. However, I’m now challenged by my mind making me second guess those second glasses of prosecco with dinner and the extra slice of leftover wedding cake. I even find myself worrying about adding too many “cheat meals” back into my daily life. That’s a pretty strange concept since before the contest-prep phase of my life, I always considered myself to follow a pretty healthy lifestyle. Now, having plain a nonfat Greek yogurt with some blueberries and almonds -none of which I ate during prep – is a “treat.” Also, I haven’t been on the scale and have no plans to hop on it anytime soon. Because my heart knows we should never be defined by just a number. Life is about finding our own balance to feel good, and doing our best to stay healthy. I just experienced the happiest day of my life, and I will do all I can to not sabotage that with feelings of guilt over celebratory meals with the people I love. Life’s too short for those kinds of regrets. I know I’d have bigger regrets if I started turning down social outings because I was worried about my diet.
This is also going to be a time of regrouping in my professional life. I truly don’t know what I want the next step to be, but I know I can’t stand still any longer. Maybe I’ll find a way to combine my love of health and well-being with my skill set as a journalist and producer. Maybe there’s an entirely different line of work out there just waiting for me to discover. Stay tuned.
Next week, I plan to share a bit more of my diet and fitness routine since the contest. I’d also love to know what lingering questions you readers may have about the whole process. Don’t be shy – ask away! As always, a huge part of keeping this blog going all these years is providing all kinds of information that’s helpful for everyone’s journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! I
Wowza. It’s been four days and I’m still at a loss for words that truly describe the experience. While I spent nearly 16 weeks preparing for my first bikini competition at the Brooklyn Grand Prix, the surprises I faced throughout the process and particularly on the big day made this journey all the more amazing.
I’ll start with show day. As you can imagine, I barely slept Friday night. Still, I was up and raring to go early Saturday morning equipped with my base coat of spray tan and a rolling suitcase filled with everything from a pillow and blanket to rice cakes and peanut butter. Arriving at the venue before 8 am, I met three women in the gymnasium that served as backstage. We were all first timers competing in the novice category, and three of us also signed up for the 40 and older masters’ division. As the day wore on, I didn’t look at these women as my competition. I got to know them as fellow warriors who shared the same ups, downs, cravings and jitters I experienced through the prep process. Thanks to the tanning and “glamming” process that takes place in an open space with very little privacy, Stacey, Kelley and Melissa saw more of me than some of the friends I’ve known since grammar school. By the time we lined up to take the stage for pre-judging nearly six hours after we arrived, we were practically holding each other up – both literally and figuratively.
Once on stage, I put on my biggest smile and truly had a blast. Nearly four months of posing practice came down to less than 20 seconds of doing my thing in front of the judges, which you can see in the video below. The extra boost was having my fiancé, James, in the audience along with my coach, Jen, and a whole row of friends whom I’ve known from various stages of my life. They cheered, they clapped and even held up signs. To my show squad: James, Jen, Elisa, Keith, Jeannine, Barry, Molly, Jim, Rita Joan, Adam, Sue and Andrew – a huge thank you. Your presence, along with all the texts, emails and messages I received that day and those leading up to it from family and friends near and far still overwhelm my heart. My eyes are actually tearing up thinking about it as I write this post. As I regain my composure, you can check out my stage swagger:
After pre-judging ended, there was nearly a three-hour break before finals. During that time, I happily enjoyed every morsel of my first hamburger in four months and some downtime with some of the squad. The day ended around 9:30pm, and when it was time to go home, I didn’t want treats. I simply wanted to take a long shower. Sweat mixed with two coats of spray tan, glaze and bikini “bite”(the glue they use to help your bikini stay in place) had my skin feeling like a potential biohazard. After the shower and one glass of bubbly – which went straight to my head – I slipped into a blissful sleep and woke up to the most amazing realization: I had nothing on my agenda for the first time in 16 weeks. The only thing I had to do was rest, enjoy a couple of cheat meals and get to Church.
During Mass, I had a major emotional moment as I acknowledged how blessed I was to make it through this journey. Back in May, I set my mind to attacking the prep process like the other projects and assignments I’d tackled as a journalist and producer and followed through on the directives to meet my deadline. I pushed on through the cravings for wine and chocolate; the pain of a few injuries and less-than-optimal workouts and more than a handful of days of potential mental sabotage when self-doubt threatened to get the best of me. The hardest part of it all was how I missed spending time with family and friends and skipping all the usual social outings that define my favorite season of the year. However, it was those same friends and family members who checked in on me – some every single day – to offer words of love and support.
So now for one final and heartfelt thank you. To my parents, family, friends, readers, followers and fellow “fitfam” members: while this journey was extremely personal, I couldn’t have made it without a strong community behind me. I know some of you never understood why I wanted to be in a bikini competition, but you respected my decision to turn a dream into reality.
I am beyond happy to have crossed this item off my bucket list. Will I be back on that stage again? Probably. I’ll share more about post-show life next week. For now, I leave you with the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this experience: if there’s a goal you’ve had on the back burner for too long, stop making excuses and take a first step toward making it happen. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, so go big today. Taking a chance can be a game changer in this ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Wow. My peak week Transformation Tuesday has finally arrived. All the weight training, cardio, meal prep, self-denial and discipline come down to this. With only four days to go until the Brooklyn Grand Prix, my feelings run the gamut: I’m excited, nervous, scared, pumped, sore, tired and definitely “hangry.”
While this week involves grinding through a few more workouts and practicing some extra stringent discipline on the nutrition side, I’m also doing all I can to stay healthy and manage some serious fatigue. My coach wants me off my feet and resting as much as humanly possible when I’m not working, training, practicing my poses or cooking. In order to conserve some brain power for the main event, this post will be short and sweet, too.
A few details about this week: I’m eating my lowest carb meals until Thursday; there’s no more mustard in my meals or artificial sweeteners in my daily iced coffee and my water intake will start decreasing after tomorrow. Daily posing practice continues and I’ve started started stocking up on show day essentials ranging from safety pins to rice cakes. I’m also beyond excited to pick up my bikini tomorrow, along with some sparkly accessories. I’ve been seriously exfoliating my skin and will get my first two coats of my spray tan Friday evening. Then it’ll be time to try and get some sleep before arriving at the show site and getting dolled up for the stage. Of course, I’ll be sharing much more after the event is over. I do ask for a little patience as it may take an extra day or two for my brain cells to recover along with the rest of my body.
For now, I want to send an enormous final thank you via my blog for all the incredible support throughout these past fifteen weeks. While some of those weeks seemed to drag on longer than others, I realize now the whole summer truly went by in the blink of an eye. If you happen to be in Brooklyn on Saturday and want to check out the show, click here for information on the venue and ticket prices at the door. To my friends have already made arrangements to be there, I can’t wait to see you!
I also need to thank everyone who’s helped me advance to round three in the Maxim Magazine Cover Girl Contest. Please keep those daily votes coming! (Click here to be taken to my Maxim profile page.) This contest will go on long after the Brooklyn Grand Prix is behind me, so I appreciate you putting up with my constant barrage on social media to help me stay in it to win it!
And now…here’s to the final countdown in this unprecedented part of my relentless journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I am in a serious state of disbelief now that I’ve hit the less-than-two week mark until the main event. As I approach the final countdown to the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix, my emotions range from sheer excitement to sheer exhaustion. Before I know it, I’ll be up on stage wearing my sparkly bikini and platform heels, doing my thing for the judges. The reality is both exhilarating… and scary as hell.
Yesterday, I traveled to New Jersey for my second-to-last bikini fitting with seamstress extraordinaire, Sheri Frazier. (I can’t wait to pick up the final masterpiece next week!) Like many of the other commuters, my body felt the same tired, bleh effects associated with a typical Monday morning. Then I realized how close I am to show time and the adrenaline kicked in. It gave me just the amount of energy I needed to make my final selections with Sheri, make the trip back to New York City, get my 70 minutes of cardio in and get my food prep done.
As I climbed away on the stair master at the gym, I realized working toward this goal has given me a more laser sharp focus in general during these past 14 weeks. No matter what your goal may be, I say go after it. Making a game plan and setting it into motion can surprise you in the best of ways. Not only will you draw strength from places you never knew existed deep within your spirit, but hopefully you’ll have a similar experience to mine and be blown away by the amount of people there to rally around you. While you should find that support from your spouse or partner, family and lifelong friends, you may also find it in places you lease expect: classmates from grammar school; an old flame or even a childhood pen pal. As I come to the end of this journey, I am so thankful for all the unexpected moments that came amidst a rigid schedule of training and meal times.
I regard this week as the calm before the storm, as Sunday will mark the beginning of peak week. Based on what I’ve learned from my coach Jen and other veteran competitors, it’ll be more challenging than anything I’ve experienced in the process so far. However, Jen also gave me a positive way to look at what’s around the corner. She says there will be a couple of days where I feel my absolute worst before I look my absolute best. Jen also reminded me now’s the time to acknowledge the hard work I’ve put in, the sacrifices I’ve made and feel good about what’s to come. Last but certainly not least, this is the time I need to listen to my body more carefully than ever. This is definitely not the time to get injured or sick.
Thank you again for all the amazing support not only on this journey, but with another unexpected happening during this contest prep process. I know I’ve been bombarding many of you with texts, emails and social media messages to keep those votes coming in the Maxim Magazine Cover Girl Contest. Well, here’s another request for your daily vote. Please click here to help me make the cut for round three.
Here’s to another week of crushing our goals in the never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I guess you could call this my least favorite Transformation Tuesday of the entire year. That’s because now that Labor Day weekend has come and gone, the unofficial end to my favorite season has arrived. While most New Yorkers enjoyed gorgeous weather for the majority of the holiday weekend, it’s been a devastating time for those affected by Hurricane Dorian. My thoughts and prayers remain with all those in her path.
As my bikini competition prep reaches the four-week-out mark, I have to share another unprecedented highlight of the summer of 2019: I wasn’t the only one crossing an item off the bucket list this season. As you read this post, my fiancé, James is experiencing a once-in-a lifetime journey of his own: the DuVine Cycling + Adventure Company’s French Alps Tour. He and five other cyclists (led by DuVine guides David and Ernesto) are riding from Geneva, Switzerland to Nice, France. They’ll climb 50,000 feet and clock more than 400 miles in six days. The group will climb several mountain passes including Col de Glandon, Croix de Fer, Alpe d’hues Lauteret and Galibier. (You avid cyclists may recognize some of these names from the Tour de France.) I’m so proud of James’ discipline and dedication to his training over the past several months to get to the starting line. I can’t wait for him to get home and hear about every mile of his adventure!
The bonus to having James go after his own goal this summer was being able to push each other on days we wanted to just slug it on the couch rather than labor though another workout. That kind of support is one of the pillars in our relationship. And support is exactly what you need no matter what you set your sights on a turning a longtime dream into a reality. Whether they come from a partner, a parent, a bestie or an online social network group, small words of encouragement can go a long way when you’re just about at the end of your rope. It’s also nice to have someone to share in what may seem like the smallest of victories.
So as I trudge through the last four weeks leading up to the Brooklyn Grand Prix, I’ll be relying on James and my team more than ever. I’m also asking for one more layer of support: I’m now a contestant in the Maxim Magazine Cover Girl Contest and I’m hoping I can count on your vote! Please click here to cast your vote, and feel free to share the link with family and friends who might be willing to the same. Maybe you’ll even be so kind as to set a daily reminder on your phone so you can vote every day until September 12th.
I close this first post of September as I have so many the others during the summer: with a huge thank you to all of you for the unrelenting support. Here’s to a new month and new chances to cross an item off your own bucket list. What are you waiting for? Remember, each and every time we are lucky enough to open our eyes and face a new day is the perfect chance to tackle your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
At the start of this journey to my very first bikini competition, I promised to share the good, the bad and the ugly. Well, last week marking the transition from six to five weeks out from show day was one hell of a long haul.
I thought I hit a wall before, but this was more like a full-body slam into a mountain. The numbers on the scale stopped moving, and that plateau really messed up my head. One day, the number even went up. That’s hard to digest when you’re following every step of a nutrition and training plan to the letter. As I stepped off the scale every morning with a heavy heart, the workouts started to feel like torture sessions. And sleep? Forget about it. I was up half the night partly because I was hungry and partly because I was stressed over things seemingly going in the wrong direction. Then a totally new problem started (spoiler alert: here’s the ugly): constipation. Overall, I felt pretty lousy and less than motivated. I felt self-doubt creeping into my brain fully understanding the temptation to simply say “Screw this!” and throw in the towel.
Luckily, I have a great coach, fiance and support team who helped me get over the mental roadblock. In addition to positive feedback and a reality check on the difficulty of maintaining such discipline, my coach Jen offered one directive that really helped me get a grip. She told me to stop weighing myself every day. She also reminded me (along with my amazing support team) progress is measured by way more than just a number blinking at you from a digital read out. She also asked me a question composed of the six best words I’d heard in almost 12 weeks: “Do you like a good steak?” Do I ever! So, Saturday I enjoyed a “feast” of lean red meat, sweet potato and arugula. This “re-feed” not only sent my taste buds into orbit, but I also slept better than I had in days and woke up refreshed.
Then came Sunday: my total rest day. Mother Nature has been super kind to me this summer as I’ve been able to enjoy some quiet time by the sea pretty much every week since this all started. This week’s beach time was a little chillier than usual and a mighty sand-pelting wind sent me home early, but those two hours of “vitamin sea” therapy gave me time to breathe and reflect on the challenges I’ve overcome so far. I left the beach with some added strength for my mind and spirit that will help me get through the next five weeks. I’ve come this far. No way I’m giving up now.
So onward I go knowing full well there will be more hurdles, aches, pains, hunger pangs, serious cravings and plain old difficult days ahead. This is when I’ll really rely on the power of upbeat music, motivational quotes, self-affirmation and any other source of positive energy to get me through. Eye on the prize. To all of you who reached out this past week via text message, emails or posts on social media, I offer an extra hearty thank you. You helped more than you’ll ever know to get over that mountain and back on a somewhat steadier path in this unprecedented journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
There’s no doubt the summer of 2019 will have a special place in my memory. Above all in the journey toward my first bikini competition, the one thing that continues to amaze me is the speedy passage of time. Needless to say, I’ve had next to nothing on the social calendar for the past 10 weeks. Yet, each day disappears into night and I gasp a little louder when each Saturday arrives and I realize I’m that much closer to stepping on stage. With a little less than six weeks to go, I now find myself not only excited about the actual event, but I’m also getting downright giddy thinking about the treats and time with family and friends I’ll be able to enjoy when it’s over.
One of those events takes place exactly two months from today. On October 20th, I’ll lace up for my second Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Central Park. As you longtime readers know, I’m a former Avon39er and this marks the fifth year I’m pounding the pavement in the fight against breast cancer. Once again, I’ll walk to honor warrior survivors like my Mom and in memory of those who lost their brave battle, including my friend Elizabeth Leonard Barton. The routes may have changed over the years, but the mission remains the same: raising money to kick breast cancer to the curb and to help fund the services assisting patients battling the disease today. If you’d like to consider making a donation, please click here to check out my personal Making Strides page. Remember, every dollar really does help. (A big thank you to all the generous people who’ve helped me raise more than $24,000 since 2014.)
While the Walk is still a couple of months away, the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix is just around the corner. The past week challenged me to use a little extra caution with my upper body workouts as I continue to nurse some aches, pains and strains. The good news is I listened to my body -and my coach!- and let my upper body rest for almost a full two weeks before attacking the weights again. This training has pushed my body to new limits and part of the learning process has been knowing when to step back and make adjustments.
Meanwhile, the meal prep and posing practice continues. My current struggle is trying to get consistent, solid shut eye. Though I fall asleep pretty easily, it’s getting back to sleep after a wakeup that’s causing the biggest disruption to my sleep schedule. So I’ll be looking for ways to improve my important overnight recovery sessions in the days and weeks ahead.
I wrap up this Transformation Tuesday like so many others: with a big thank you to all those who continue to cheer me on this journey. Here’s to making the most of what’s left of the summer of 2019 and the opportunities we have yet to discover on the never-ending road to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!