“No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.”
37 1/2″ Chest
38 1/2″ Hips
24 1/2 Upper thigh
16 1/2 ” Calf
11 3/4″ Arm
Weight: 141.8 lbs
Body fat: 27%
22″ Upper Thigh
Body fat: 23%
28 1/2″ Waist
22 1/2″ Upper Thigh
Body fat: 21%
So, did I just blow your mind? From August 2008 to June 2013 (5 years!!!), I have kept roughly the same measurements while at the same time gaining weight…and muscle. (136 pounds to 148 pounds, 12 pounds of weight, fat and muscle.) In 2008, I went from 141 to 136 pounds in one month and continued to fluctuate between 135-137 pounds. In 2010, I dropped to 129 pounds when my had my back episode the end of May. I started lifting in June of 2010 and by May of 2011, I had gained weight and muscle and was reaching a healthier weight of 140 pounds. To hell with what the scale says.
I continued to lift seriously, get stronger and feel better. Between 2012 and 2013, I have continued my strength work and gained more weight and put on more muscle. When I did my photo shoot last May, I weighed around 140 pounds and was roughly about 18-19% body fat. I took six weeks to prepare for this photo shoot by sticking to my lifting program and dialing in my nutrition.
Today, I weigh between 145 and 148 pounds (give or take the week) at roughly 21% body fat. The last time I weighed close to 148 pounds, I was 22 years old and living in New York City and probably close to 30% body fat. This was 16 years ago. (See pictures below.)
The Beginning of the Beginning
This did not happen over night. Beginning in 1996, when I graduated from college, through my two years in NYC and upon returning home from NYC in 1999, my weight fluctuated big time…up and down, up and down.
I started dancing again in the summer of 1999 with the Collective. I started working part time at a gym for free membership and took cycle class after cycle class, ran on the treadmill and worked the elliptical like it was going out of style. I hopped from machine to machine. And I looked…okay. I ate…okay. Never satisfied. Never happy. I met my ex-boyfriend in 2000 and between 2000-2003, I was happy and miserable, all at the same time. My weight went up. I started graduate school and quit the gym. I ate pizza. I ate A LOT of pizza. Because HE ate pizza. Because he liked to go to the diner at 10:00pm. Because….well, you get the picture. By the end of 2003, I finally broke up with his sorry ass and re-joined the gym. I moved into my own apartment and went food shopping. No more pizza. No more diners.
2004 was a huge turning point in my life. I met my future husband. Diego. 😉 By this time, I was probably at the lowest weight I had been since my freshman year of college. I had finally ended a 3 year on and off again relationship. I was living by myself. I was preparing my own meals. I was working out regularly. Life was good. Diego actually cooked his own meals. He ran. He was a gym nut. More importantly, he was invested in ME. I felt the best I had felt in a very, very, very long time, and I was looking better than I had in years.
Between 2005 and 2007, I really felt great. And even though I was not super thrilled with my current position, teaching 5th grade in a Baltimore City Public School, I had someone at home who loved me and cared for me. I resigned from Baltimore City in 2006 and took a new position as the School Director of a dance studio in Ellicott City, a position I had for 5 years. I was already dancing with the company in residence at the studio and it was thriving and I was dancing better and better, despite having had a little set back with a back injury in 2005. 2007 was even better.
Everything was going great. Until it wasn’t.
Then, in the Spring of 2008, I hit a brick wall. Shit hit the fan and I was miserable. Things were not going very well at my job. I was dealing with a lot of crap from parents and students at the dance studio where I was the school director. I was becoming more and more unhappy with the dance company. Diego and I were fighting more than usual due to my miserable state. I would come home from the studio and just take out all of my aggression on him. Not good. My back was starting to bother me again, and I knew that this year would be my final year dancing with the company. So, in true Emily form, as a result of all of this negativity, I decided to take it out on my own body. You’re not fit enough, I would say to myself. You don’t look good. You’re fat. How can you call yourself a dancer? You’re fat. I was trying to eat well. At least I thought I was eating well. But I did not feel any different after my gym workouts. I did not like how my clothes fit. I started to compare myself incessantly to other women. If only I had these legs. If only had those arms. If only I looked like…..and that was it. I had NO IDEA what I wanted to look like. I would cry to Diego about this over and over again and he would ask me “Who do you want to look like Emily?” I had no answer for him. “I just know I don’t want to look like me,” was my only response. “So,” he said to me. “Let’s look at the numbers. Weigh yourself. Test your body fat. Then move on from there. Numbers don’t lie. And crying about it is not going to help.” Damn mathematicians. But he was right. Numbers don’t lie. If I wanted to feel better about myself, I was going to need to make some changes. And I needed to know what exactly I was up against. Numbers don’t lie.
I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. I made two appointments. One was with a plastic surgeon. Yes, a plastic surgeon. Liposuction, to be exact. And one with a trainer at my gym. I was either going to have the fat sucked out of me or I was going to change how I looked and felt with better eating habits and exercise. Here were my choices. Liposuction or better habits that will help me in the long run. Hmmmm…..
I met with the trainer first. I chose this specific trainer based on how she looked….like a figure competitor, which in fact she was. I figured if she looked this way, she knew what she was doing and would help me look that way too. This was partly correct on my part. I signed up for one month of training with her along with nutrition counseling. Looking back now, I can honestly say that the changes that occurred in that one month of training did not come from ANY of the exercises she gave me which, while not completely worthless, were definitely not the reason for my losing weight or fat or inches. This came strictly from changes to my eating. When I walked in that first day with my food log in hand, I was SURE that she was going to tell me that I was eating WAY too much food. Quite the opposite. “You are not eating enough,” she told me. What the hell are you talking about woman? I eat all the time. “Where is your breakfast?” she asked. Wait, the sugary yogurt and banana does not count as breakfast? Are you sure? “Where is your protein?” My what? Uh, Houston, we have a problem.
She took my measurements. She took my body fat. 27%. Acceptable. I did not want to be acceptable. She suggested a few changes to my eating. Switch out the soy milk for almond milk. Eat more chicken. Eat more vegetables. Eat MORE. She scribbled a list of meals on a piece of paper (very, very professional) and I guarded this piece of paper like it was the Holy Grail. I put it on my refrigerator and followed her diet to a T. For one month, I ate oatmeal, egg whites, chicken, broccoli, salmon. I followed a body builder’s diet (though not as intense) and ate the same thing, around the same time. I cut out crackers, chips, Goldfish, pretzels. I ate large salads. When we went to New Hampshire the end of July, although we were staying with someone who had food, I went to the grocery store and bought my own oatmeal and eggs. Just because I was away from home didn’t mean I was about to go off track with my eating. I “strength trained” (if you can really call what we did strength training) with her twice a week and continued to teach my cycle classes, 1-2 times a week depending on the week and if I was subbing and doing my own thing in the gym. And guess what? In one month I lost weight. I lost inches. I lost body fat. And here is the million dollar question. Do you think it was a result of my eating plan or my exercise routine?
Here is a sample workout with the trainer:
Can you read it? No, you are not seeing things. It really does say “Tricep extension on ball.” (That’s the stability ball.) Yes, it does say, “Crunches” and bicycle. Here is another day:
How about seated cable row? Leg curls? Standing leg press? And I did all of this. And I OWNED it. I owned all of it. And at the time (remember this is 2008), I thought that this was awesome. Looking back now, I know this is not what helped me lean out. This did not help me get strong which at the time, I honestly could have given a rats ass about being strong. I wanted to be LEAN. I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to lose fat. And I did. Thanks to better eating habits.
Exercise. Eating less. Moving more. Eating whole foods. Eating less crap. THIS is what made the difference in one month. ONE month. I was shocked when I saw my numbers. Shocked. And a few months later, when I derailed and decided to add a few things back into my eating that I had eliminated, I saw my body start to change. My workouts were the same. I was still teaching cycle. What had I changed? Oh, right. Back to my little scribbled up piece of paper. And believe it or not, that scrappy piece of paper stayed around a long time until one day, I did not need it anymore. Better eating habits had been born.
So what about my trainer? Well, as a personal trainer, she sucked. She forgot our appointments. She gave me shitty workouts. She had no idea how to train someone. But she knew the right things to eat…..yes, it was body builder style but it helped me get on track and it led me to bigger and better and smarter ways to eat and relate to food. 😉
Fast forward two years later. In 2010, I had my horrible back episode. I was still eating well…but I was not eating as much because I was in pain. I was still teaching classes and exercising. And I was lean…but I was also in horrible pain. I was WEAK. I was a mess. And I needed to get strong. So after my episode and I was out of acute pain, instead of hiring a trainer, I “hired” my husband. I was already becoming more and more educated on the benefits of REAL strength training. I was working on my chin ups. I was starting to learn how to squat again. I was shifting away from the machines, from the stability ball, from the leg curls and tricep extensions. It wasn’t until I started Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program that REAL changes started to occur. I was getting stronger. I was building muscle. I was moving better. I was seeing even bigger and better changes. Since 2010, I have gotten stronger, added muscle to my frame, built a better body through better eating habits and real, honest to god strength training.
So what happened with the liposuction plastic surgeon you ask? I cancelled that appointment.
The Myth Continues….
The capri pants I am wearing in the very first picture with Jack are about 6 years old. I still wear them. I wore them just last week. In fact, they fit better now than they did 5 years ago. I still wear the same size jeans at 148 pounds that I wore at 130 pounds. Except I need to wear a belt with them now. Wrap your head around that one for a second. I need a belt to hold my pants up or else they bag in the waist. My legs keep them up (hello squats!) but if I don’t wear a belt, the pants gap. Actually, I can still wear the same exact outfit from that picture. Except everything just fits much better. Best part? I now fill out my pants. 😉 It all comes down to proper nutrition, a good weight training program and building good habits that one can maintain time and time again. How much you actually weigh is only PART of the story. And the only way I know how much I weigh is because I have been weighing myself so I could write this post. And as you can see from the pictures, how much you weigh and how you LOOK and FEEL are two completely separate things.
There is that myth that weight training will make women big, that it will turn them into the hulk. This is just not true. Yes, as women, we can grow muscle. We can build a body that is hard, not soft. And for some people out there, men and women included, women with ANY kind of muscle will always look “big and bulky” and unfeminine. These people have a certain idea of what a woman should look like and that is okay. There. I said it. It is okay. Not everyone will want to look like Strongwoman Maya Camille Winters or Soccer player Brandi Chastain or actress Jessica Biel.
I am almost POSITIVE that all three women look way too “bulky” for most people. I know for a fact that all three do not fit the ideal look. (For me, personally, I think they are all absolutely gorgeous women and are damn strong). Yes, there are plenty of women who have more arms and backs than most men and honestly, what’s that saying about all those men out there? 😉 But, for every one person who thinks they look too big, too bulky, too whatever, there are 2, 3, 4 people who are saying “Wow!” How did she do that? How can I build a strong body like hers? All I ever hear from the women who train with me is how they no longer fit into their clothes (too big.) Or how they continue to lose inches from their waist or hips. Or how they can do more for themselves now that they are stronger. Or how excited they are that they can squat more today than last week. Or….you get the picture. They are seeing a difference. They are feeling a difference. More importantly, they are different. They are stronger. They are more confident. They have found something that truly works for them because, let’s be honest here…..who doesn’t want to look better and feel better while at the same time get stronger? Hands down. I didn’t think so. 😉
Ultimately, we are the only ones who have the power to make the changes we want to see. Whether that means getting stronger, losing weight, gaining weight, it is up to YOU to make those changes. Seek out people who will support you and encourage your decisions to become a better, healthier version of yourself. Be good to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be the person YOU want to be.