“What’s your secret?”
“You’re going to have to give me the details of whatever workouts you’re doing.”
“Are you pushing to be a fitness model? Because your abs and thigh striations are on point.”
These are a few of the messages I’ve received after posting this picture over the 4th of July weekend.
I’ve struggled with over-indulgence and storing extra body fat throughout my life. At one point, I was 40 pounds over weight. I lost this extra fat over a decade ago, but my body fat to lean tissue ratio was still a yo-yo. Even when I got close to attaining my “dream body,” I couldn’t seem to maintain the progress I made.
I finally figured out how to have my cake and eat it, too. Those of you who follow me know what I mean since I make so many cakes and desserts!
I’m not a fitness coach, nutrition professional, or anything of the sort. I don’t take classes or courses. I don’t have a coach. I do follow multiple women who are and do these things. These women are gracious enough to post free content. I’m listing their Instagram accounts at the end of this post so you can follow them, too! I follow their advice, tweak it, and add to it fit my own needs, goals, and lifestyle.
I’ve learned a lot on my journey (and my journey isn’t even close to over), so I’ll share a few principles that I hope make your journey more exciting and enjoyable.
You Can Do It
First things first: stop telling yourself that your body can’t do it. I hear too many people make comments like, “My body will never do that.” Or, “I could never do that.”
Stop it. Stop it, right now! Everything starts in the brain and your body listens to your brain. If your ego is telling your brain that your body can’t do something, it will make it 100x more difficult — if not impossible — for your body to attain its goal. You probably won’t even try!
Start telling yourself you can do it.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is trying to cut out 100% the foods and drinks you love. Why? Because you’re going to be far more likely to fall off the bandwagon, so-to-speak. You’re more likely to binge eat and over-indulge not only over the course of a day, but maybe even for a week or longer. An off-track day here-and-there won’t keep your from achieving your fitness and health goals. But a pattern of falling off the bandwagon will undo much of the hard work you’ve already put into your health and physique, as well as be a discouragement to yourself.
Let’s say you love ice cream (like me). Instead of trying to cut ice cream out of your diet for several months, allow yourself a half or full-serving of ice cream once or twice a week. That’s only going to be around 150 – 250 calories every time you have your ice cream treat. You can absolutely still make fitness progress when the rest of your day is filled with nutritional food your body needs and thrives on! You can also subtract calories from another meal. For example, have half a cup of rice instead of a full cup of rice with dinner.
This brings us to our second point.
This applies to your diet and your workouts. Health and fitness are long-term. You’re not going to workout and eat right for a month and have your dream body unless you were already super close to your goals. Even then, you need a certain level of consistency to maintain.
This is a lifestyle. Keep some consistency in eating what your body needs and moving your body for optimal performance. You’re going to hear this over and over again by fitness professionals. Consistency is key.
Eat vegetables! Eat the right fats. Eat your carbs. Lots of them. Eat protein. Though, side note, I don’t believe we need the 1 gram of protein per body weight that’s being pushed by the fitness industry. I eat much less protein than that and, as you can see, I’m making great progress. Also, consider eating more plant-based meals.
Read up on how to track your macros (macro nutrients). Amber Dawn Fokken is a fitness queen and does an excellent job explaining this. Go follow her right now on Instagram @mishkadawn.
One way I stay on track with nutrition is by making my favorite meals with healthier ingredients. For example, I love tuna casserole. I use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. I also use less cheese. There are several tricks you can apply to eat your favorite meals but get the nutrition you need within the right calorie amount. I add all my recipes in MyFitnessPal. This way I know my calories and nutritional macros for every serving. I talk about this more under the Track Calories section. You can also join my Facebook group, Recipes for Fit Foodies. I promise to start posting in it more!
We probably need an entire post (or several) dedicated to this subject. In short, you need to weight train (and train with heavy or challenging weights) to get the lean, curvy physique and high metabolism you want.
If you’re a beginner, you may start with an upper body workout once a week and a lower body workout once a week. I’m a big fan of the pull, push, and leg day workout split. This means I’m doing back, triceps, and corresponding upper body muscles once a week; chest, biceps, and corresponding upper body muscles once a week; and a leg day once or twice a week.
Now that I’m incorporating yoga and hand stands (which we’ll go into the “why” behind this shortly), I’m actually not doing any upper body weight training. I’m only weight training legs one or two days per week.
Our bodies are amazing machines that adapt to our lifestyle and environment. I talked about consistency relative to staying active and getting the right nutrition. But, as you continue to work out and get stronger, your body will adapt and the same workouts that were once challenging will become easy. That’s when it’s time to increase intensity. We call this progressive overload.
For example, when I first started doing hip thrusts (a great exercises for glutes and hamstrings) I started with 40 pounds. I’m now doing the same exercise with more than 100 pounds.
Track Calories and Nutrients
Use MyFitnessPal app to document the calories and nutrients you’re consuming every day. Start by eating intuitively and track what you eat. This will help you learn your maintenance calories and make sure you’re getting enough of the right nutrients. Maintenance calories refer to what your body needs on an given day (based on activity, etc.) to not lose or gain weight.
Once you know your maintenance calories, you can start to slowly add or subtract based on your goals.
It’s important to track calories even on the days you eat or drink more than you planned. You want as much data as possible to learn your patterns and how your body reacts.
Your body needs calories to add muscle mass — the secret ingredient to getting lean, curvy physique and a high metabolism. Your body also needs enough calories to functional properly (think hormones, etc.) and not go into “starvation mode.” Starvation mode is when your body starts to hoard calories because it’s not getting enough calories. Your body’s main job is to survive, not look a certain way. This is why some women will do hours of cardio a week (or even a day) and cut calories super low and still not attain or maintain a lean, healthy-looking body.
This is why you need to slowly and intentionally start adding more calories into your diet. As your body gets stronger and adds muscle mass, your body will require more calories.
For example, let’s say your maintenance calories are an average of 1,700 calories per day. You want to lose a little fat. You start eating 1,600 calories a day for a couple weeks. Then 1,500 calories a day for another couple of weeks. This comes out to about a month of being in a calorie deficit. Depending on your physique at this time, it’s may be a good time for a reverse diet. Now go back up to 1,600 a day for a couple weeks. Then up to 1,700 calories a day, then 1,800 calories a day, and 1,900 calories a day. This is a very basic example, FYI.
Reverse dieting will help raise your metabolism and help you add more muscle mass. Of course, this is why you need to be consistent in weight lifting! When you want to lean out a little bit more and go into another calorie deficit, you will be starting from a much higher calorie intake so you won’t have to drop calories to a dangerously low number. Most professionals don’t recommend going under 1,200 calories per day. We could spend several posts on this subject alone.
Physical Activity You Enjoy
This is so important because, just like anything else, there are going to be many times you feel unmotivated, burned out, and want to quit. You need something to enjoy, look forward to, and be excited about making progress.
For me, especially during this Covid-19 isolation, it’s yoga.
I was terrified of flipping upside down. Not anymore. I’ve nearly perfected head stands and am now working on my hand stands. This has been such a great upper body workout so I’m currently not doing weight training for upper body. My body is loving the change. See how I’m being consistent but I’ve changed the workout?
Heal Before You Train
It’s easy to want to push ourselves and believe that more workouts means more progress.
Your muscles grow after they are taxed and healed. If you’re still healing from the last workout, it’s better to wait another day to let them finish healing before you hit the weights hard again.
Stretch every day. It not only helps with recovery, but prevents injury. It also helps your form when lifting weights or any other activity. Correct form is imperative if you want the best results.
For example, last year I learned the reason I wasn’t making the expected progress in my glutes was because my hip flexors were too tight. I couldn’t get the needed mobility, form, and depth in various leg exercises (think squats, hip thrusts, and dead lifts) to get the maximum benefit of those exercises. I also injured myself and had to take almost 6 months off my lower body weight-lifting journey. Yeah, it wasn’t fun.
If I can do it, you can do it. My journey isn’t even close to over. It’s a lifestyle and I’m excited to explore all the things my body is capable of doing. I want to be strong, healthy, lean with a near-perfect balance of fat and muscle tissue. I want all of this without it controlling my thoughts or my life. These goals shouldn’t keep me from enjoying my favorite treats or going on travels where consistency in types of food or exercises is more difficult.
Most of all, I want to be happy and glorify the Maker of my wondrous body that my soul temporarily calls home.
Follow me on Instagram @KRDollar if you’re not already.
Here are some other fitness women to follow: