Mind Over Matter
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!
This Transformation Tuesday brings me to the shocking halfway mark in my journey toward the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. It’s been eight weeks since I began easing into prep mode using my coach Jen’s nutrition and training programs. In the beginning, I had a little wiggle room and a few “cheat” meals factored in for special occasions. Fast forward to today, and the calendar shows just about eight weeks left before I step on stage. I’ve decided to refer to the remaining time as super-crunchy crunch time.
The past week brought new challenges, as I nursed some muscle strains and also plateaued on the weight loss front. Just like facing any other uphill battle, instead of getting caught up in what didn’t go right, I tried to focus on the little victories. The two biggies:
- Making it through my Goddaughter’s graduation party without sampling any of the delicious catered food (which never would have happened without meal prep!) and
- Hearing my coach’s encouraging assessment that my posing practice is paying off. As predicted, posing remains my biggest challenge, but I’ll continue to practice, practice and practice some more. Hoping to provide some comic relief in your workday, here’s a look at last week’s session complete with my coach’s cues on what I need to work on moving ahead.
In addition to smoothing out the rough spots walking around in my platform heels, I’ll also be banging out some new lower body moves to get my glutes in better shape for the show. I’m also mentally preparing for more restrictions in my diet as the days wind down. Luckily, my unbelievable supportive network of family and friends continues to cheer me on and remind me the hard work will be worth it in the end.
As I wrap this up, I realize this marks the first time I haven’t taken an August writing hiatus since the summer of 2011. Of course, bikini competition prep process has given me a lot more to write about than my usual seasonal tips about bringing healthy snacks to the beach and the importance of staying hydrated. Whether this month is a carbon copy of last year’s August or if you’re also finding your footing on an uncertain journey, here’s to all of us making the most of what’s left of the summer of 2019 and every chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Abs ARE Made in the Kitchen!
Time seems to be flying by faster than ever this summer. I imagine it’s a combination of being on a more rigid schedule than the past few summers and the fact that each Saturday, I see the numbers dwindle to how may weeks remain until the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. At 11 weeks and counting, I thought I’d answer the most common question people have asked me so far: “Laura, what are you eating?”
The truth is I’m eating more real food than I have in several years. I’ve come to realize before this prep began, I was relying on shakes and protein bars to get through the day. Now, I aim to eat five meals a day and I space them out every three to four hours. I attacked the nutrition part of the prep process like any other deadline or production timeline for other projects in my life. Give me an itinerary, schedule or instructions and I’ll follow them to the letter. So I asked my coach to offer some meal plans, and Jen gave me several easy-to-follow options. By the way, kudos to all of you who add up your macronutrients for the day (commonly referred to as “macros” in today’s nutrition lingo) and hit to the right number before bedtime.
Here’s a look at what the different days of the week look like for me based on my workout demands:
- 3/4 egg whites
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1 tbsp. organic peanut butter
- Sprinkle of cinnamon
- 4oz 99% lean ground turkey
- 1 cup greens (broccoli; spinach; arugula; asparagus)
- 2 oz avocado
- 1 cup brown rice
- 4 oz 99% fat-free chicken breast
- 5 oz sweet potato
- 1 cup greens
- 4 oz 99% lean turkey
- 1/2 cup brown rice
- 1 cup greens
- 4 oz tilapia
- 1/2 cup quinoa or brown rice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup greens
Upper Body Day
Breakfast is the same. The only difference is a slightly lower number of carbs for the day. So for my second meal, I’ll have a half-cup of brown rice instead of a whole one. Everything else is pretty much the same.
Active Recovery / Rest Day
Again, breakfast is the same. (Luckily, it’s my favorite meal of the day!) If I’m too rushed to make breakfast, the smoothie I still love as an alternative includes:
- 1 cup Amazing Greens Super Greens
- 1 scoop Vega Sport Chocolate Protein powder
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1 tbsp organic peanut butter
- Ice, 16 oz water.
For the rest of the day, the protein portions remain the same; but for my second and third meal, I’ll prepare a half-cup of brown rice. For the fourth meal, I get to enjoy three ounces of a sweet potato and finally, for the last meal of the day, it’s just protein, greens and a tablespoon of olive oil. (Sometimes I swap out the oil for 20 raw almonds.)
Needless to say, the most important tools in my kitchen are my food scale, measuring cups and measuring spoons. I realize I am fortunate to have time to prepare meals ahead of time, sometimes for an entire day. I also try to get a day ahead if I know I’ll be out for an entire day, such as the glorious rest day I spent at Jones Beach.
Jen has warned me as crunch time winds down, my portion sizes will change. In the meantime, the workouts, the posing practice and the overall nervous excitement continue. Here’s to what’s next on all our journeys to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Practice Makes Perfect…I Hope!
Wow! We made it to July! I seriously can’t believe we’re past the halfway mark of 2019. Perhaps even more unbelievable is in four days, I’ll be just 12 weeks away from stepping on stage for the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix!
During this past week my coach, Jen, was kind enough to meet with me before a well-deserved vacation to start teaching me the ropes in what I consider the most terrifying part of this entire process: posing. Let’s just say I need all the help I can get!
This is completely different from maintaining poise and composure in front of a camera even in the sweltering heat or bone-chilling cold during my TV reporter days. This is about mastering a routine that includes four poses in a blur of 10 to 12 seconds. That’s the amount of solo time I’ll have in front of the judges. The poses themselves are totally foreign to me, and then there’s the added challenge of executing those moves wearing four-and-a-half inch platform heels and transitioning between each move as gracefully as possible. (Oh, and of course, I need to do it all with a smile!) Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed during that first hour of practice. However, Jen encouraged me to simply practice, practice and practice some more. If you want a good laugh on this first Tuesday of the new month, click the play button on this video to see how I did.
All you pros out there know I have a lot of work ahead of me! However, I hope sharing this not-so-perfect video serves as a gentle reminder that anytime you try something new, you can’t expect to be perfect right out of the gate. Whether it’s a new job, maybe even a totally different career; a new fitness or nutrition program or a new hobby, we can put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We’re usually the first to beat ourselves up when we slip and fall. So, I’m going to try and remind myself to do what my coach and so many other people who’ve been through this competition prep have told me: trust the process. So, I may stumble and fall – literally! – practicing my posing routine, but I’ll get up and try again. I’ll keep the faith that with some serious effort on my part and the ongoing support from my family, friends, my coach and the fitfam universe, I can make this happen!
I close with a wish for everyone to have a safe and Happy 4th of July! (Click here for a reminder on how to get through what could be a long weekend of food-filled fun without totally falling off the healthy lifestyle wagon.) As for me, the holiday will be my last real “cheat” day before crunch time begins. That doesn’t mean I’ll go totally crazy with the food and drink. I’ll get to the gym super early, eat a couple of my prepared meals before heading to the annual pool party my family and I look forward to every year and I’ll choose my “cheat” foods with care. (I do see a cheeseburger and one or two cocktails in my holiday future…) I’ll also be sure to drink my gallon of water or more throughout the day.
Here’s to celebrating America’s birthday, a fitastic July and all the opportunities ahead to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!