Anna has been a client of Fivex3 Training for the past two years. She came to us to get stronger and stay active. Over the two years that I have known her, we would talk sporadically about her eating but when she was at the gym, we were always focused on her training. She competed in her first powerlifting meet last year, was training hard and looking strong. Then she started traveling a lot more for work, got engaged last year and started traveling even more as her fiancee lived and worked in Rochester, NY. She recently got married on Valentine’s Day of this year in Hawaii with her immediate family only and then again the end of May, in Boston with all of her friends and extended family. 😉 She bought her wedding dress in March of 2014 and had her first fitting the end of November of 2014. When she tried to put it on, it didn’t fit. The engagement, traveling and eating out had finally caught up to her and she had 8 weeks until the next fitting.
She contacted me from the fitting and….well, I don’t want to spoil her story. 😉
Here it is.
I have always struggled with my weight. Always. From when I was a kid who didn’t want to shovel food into her mouth out of rebellion to the chunky girl in the tutu, I’ve had it with food and my body. For most of my late twenties and through my thirties, it was always smaller for me, constantly calculating the number of carbs and slyly feeling delight on fitting into size 0s, 2s and 4s. But I also had a grave dread. When I was happiest, I ate. I always lived in fear of going up a size or two on my jeans and sometimes wore my skinny jeans when I was larger (and happier) to restrain my eating.
During this time, I was physically active. Mini triathlons, horseback riding. Rowing with a crew team. I was active, and I loved it. It was a big part of making me a whole and balanced person.
Two years ago, I relocated to Baltimore from Boston and joined Fivex3 Training. I was hooked immediately. Strength training replaced the running, the horseback riding and the rowing. I felt better. I looked better. I even competed in my first powerlifting meet last year. Squatting, pressing, deadlifting and benching gave me strength, confidence and boosted my self-image and self-esteem. I felt great. My eating was pretty structured. I lead a disciplined life: working out, eating healthy during the week and eating fairly simply on the weekends with I went back to Boston.
Before I continue, let me disclose ONE more thing about me. I eat out in restaurants A LOT for work, with friends, and when I travel. This, I discovered after meeting with Emily, was going to be my “limiting factor.”
When I met my boyfriend, now husband, in my late thirties, eating commenced. I was happy. I broke out of my healthy, disciplined eating routine and fell into “happy” bouts of eating, drinking and more eating in restaurants, clubs and parties.
Eating, drinking, and more eating. Thankfully (for my waistline), we got engaged quickly and I started the wedding planning process, trying on wedding dresses, signing up for a knot.com account. You know, the usual. Life was good.
In March of 2014, I found a gorgeous dress that was stunning and had a price tag to match. Not having a firm wedding date, I ordered it and went about my engaged life. During this time, my fiancée and I were happy. Happy and hungry. Needless to say I gained weight. 15 pounds to be exact.
In November of 2014, we set a wedding date for Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2015, in Hawaii. I knew I was getting bigger. Let’s be honest. When your clothes are tighter, you start to question if that’s really how you look in photos. My lifting belt was also starting to suffocate me. ;( And Emily had also dropped a couple hints that she would really like to work with me on eating and food. (Emily: Maybe just a few hints. I could tell that Anna was not feeling her best and encouraged her to set up a time to meet with me so we could discuss her nutrition.)
My moment in the mirror happened a few days before Thanksgiving. I went to the bridal salon to try on my dress. I knew that I wasn’t going to be pleasant, and I knew deep down that my number was up. Gulp. It was time to face the music.
I put the dress on. Or rather, I tried to put the dress on. ;( No go. The wedding dress was so tight that I couldn’t even get on past my hips. I looked like a sausage. “Don’t worry,” said the bridal consultants, “50% of the time bride’s gain weight and we are equipped to work with this.” Out came the seamstress. There I was, a white fluff ball stuffed in a dress. But I did have a veil on, so maybe the reality could be hidden.
“Take off the veil. I need to see what I’m working with,” sneered the seamstress. With a sharp intake of breath, she slowly walked around me, poking my butt to feel the tightness of the cloth. She looked up at me directly in the eyes. “I’m going to be honest with you,” she snapped. “Lose the weight or buy a new dress.” BOOM. I asked her about letting out the material but there weren’t any seams. The dress was literally a glove. Knowing the truth in the situation, I asked her how many inches I needed to lose. Two on my bust, two on my waist and two on my hips. My next dress fitting was the end of January, 8 weeks away. Six inches in 8 weeks. As I left the salon, the seamstress handed me the measurements I needed to hit on a sticky. “Lose the inches,” she said as she sauntered away.
Quelling panic, I called Emily from the salon. I was immediately tempted to do something crazy like a crash diet or some kind of juice cleanse and lots of hours on the bike at the gym….but I knew that wasn’t the way. Emily was calm and collected. “Anna, you can do this,” she reassured me. We have 8 weeks. No problem.” I set up a time to meet with her when I returned and we would get started on cleaning up my eating habits. I was ready.
I met Emily at her house for our initial meeting on November 22, and the very first thing she did when I got there was show me her fridge.
It was jam packed with food. Eggs, pre-cut vegetables, water, fruit, Greek yogurt, egg whites, cottage cheese……while mine looked like a waste land
“Anna, You need to have a fully stocked fridge,” Emily said. “This way you are not tempted to simply call out for delivery when you get home after a long day.” She explained to me that I needed to fill my refrigerator with food so that I could have plenty of meals available. Emily told me that one of her tricks was to prepare foods before they’re needed, like chopping veggies and storing them in Tupperware or pre-grilling her burgers or chicken. This way, when you’re hungry, you can quickly throw together a lunch or dinner because all of your food has been prepared ahead of time. This, I thought, I could do!
She then showed me how my plate of food should look with portions of protein, veggies, starches and fats. It was a version of the MyPlate that the USDA had put out in 2011 that Precision Nutrition had adapted to fit their ideas of what a healthy plate should look like. It was a very simple diagram, and I took a photo of it with my phone to use as a guide whenever I ate out but also when I ate at home. It was so easy, and I used it A LOT in the first few days.
“First habit Anna,” Emily stated. “Eat until you are 80% full.” Since eating was so social for me (remember my limiting factor?), I didn’t really pay that close attention to when I was full or not. I was always too busy talking and socializing. And eating. But knew that I could be attuned with my body as I had been athletic from childhood, and I certainly was motivated now.
And when I thought about it, my go to meal could still be something I enjoyed, like a chicken Caesar salad with the dressing on the side with double the chicken and no croutons. This greatly simplified my life as most places can make this. And I wouldn’t be giving up my social time as I could eat a chicken Caesar salad while others ate what they wished.
“And alcohol Anna.” Yes, I know, social drinking is also a significant caloric doosey. 😉 I did like to have wine and a cocktail every once in a while but for now I could resist the urge. “I don’t mean give it up completely,” Emily said to me when I kind of sighed. “I mean just watch how often you are drinking. Save it for a special night. You will find you start to miss it less and less.”
Before I left our meeting, Emily gave me a tracking chart. I was to mark whether or not I was successful with each meal based on a specific task – eating vegetables, drinking water or some other non-caloric drink. This chart held me accountable to myself. And I certainly did not want to let myself or Emily down.
After I left Emily’s house, I ran to the grocery store, stocked my empty fridge with vegetables and fruit, eggs and Greek yogurt. I made my dinner for that night, sent her a photo, received feedback on how to improve, followed her instructions to a “T” and began to see results.
Before I continue, I want to make it very clear that Emily did not hand me a food plan. She never told me what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat. She simply talked to me about habits. Eating until 80% full. Eating more vegetables. Drinking water or non-caloric beverages. Eating slowly. Being mindful of what I was eating, how I was eating and why I was eating. She suggested certain foods but never told me to eat brussel sprouts unless I liked them. “Don’t eat foods you hate,” she said. “Figure out what vegetables you do like and eat them. Try new things but don’t get stuck on eating foods you really don’t like. I don’t like lima beans,” she told me. “So I don’t eat them.” Knowing this helped tremendously. I did not feel pressure to eat certain foods. I made meals that suited me.
The first few days were hard. My body was adjusting to its new caloric intake, and I was hungry but not painfully so when I went to bed. Emily had reminded me that it was okay to be hungry. Many of us don’t want to be hungry but it is OKAY. Our metabolism won’t “shut down.” We won’t go into a catatonic state. The body will adjust. And adjust it did. My energy ranged during workouts, and I discovered that I just needed to really listen to my body as my source of fuel had changed. I had so much motivation to achieve my goal that I powered through these changes and came out on top.
Four weeks after our first meeting, I met with Emily again. My body was losing inches and my energy was variable. “I have been really light headed,” I told her. “Next habit,” Emily said, “is making sure you are having protein at every meal. How much protein are you getting?” Uh, I thought I was. Emily asked me how many grams of proteins I was having and I told her, I think it’s enough. At least, I thought I was having enough. However when I actually went back and counted my protein, I was only consuming half the amount of protein that I needed! According to the sources, women who strength training regularly should consume about 1 gram per pound or in other words, for a 150 pound woman, that is 150 grams of protein. No wonder I was light headed and hungry! “Protein is important, Anna, because it keeps you satiated longer as well as helps with building muscle. Eat more protein and you will not feel as hungry.” This was quickly solved by eating Greek yogurt in the mornings and replacing my tofu meals with animal protein when I could. After upping my protein, my energy stabilized. It was definitely something that I needed to be aware of when lifting heavy.
The inches were quickly melting off. I was feeling awesome. My workouts still consisted of squats, benching, pressing, power cleans or dead lifts every session. I did have variability day to day on the amount that I could lift, but for the most part, I lifted exactly the same during the new eating regime as I did before. Emily was quite adamant about maintaining my same strength training regimen when we first met. “I am not changing anything in your lifting program. When you train, you will do a full body lifting day, not just come in and only bench. I will not be adding any conditioning into your program until January and even then, it will be only 5-10 minutes of interval work like kettle bell swings. No extra cardio. Your focus will be maintaining your strength. The nutrition part is the only thing we are changing in your program.” That meant no biking. No extra exercises. No six days a week in the gym. I trusted her.
Outside of the gym, I added rest days to my routine making sure that I put at least one day in between exercise. In addition, I made a point of getting eight hours of sleep which really helped my state of mind about the inch loss as well as the wedding preparations!
I met with Emily again in January, and we tweaked my eating a bit more. I was comfortably eating five meals a day and loved checking off my success adhering to the new routine each meal. In fact, now that I’m no longer checking off the grid, I still think of every meal and always follow the same core components of a meal e.g., protein, veggies, fats, etc.
It was getting down to the wire with only a couple of more weeks before the final dressing fitting: D2. I had posted the needed measurements to fit into my dress on the refrigerator and was close to hitting them. I was so close, and given the financial investment that I had in this dress, I needed to hit that goal.
But I was getting desperate. I still had inches to lose and it was getting closer to the fitting. “Maybe I should…” I started to stutter to Emily. But she remained calm. “You are not to change anything with your eating habits. Nor your strength program. However, I think we can add in some conditioning,” she said. “Let’s throw some swings into your work.” From kettlebell swings to rope slams, for five minutes to ten minutes after my strength session, I sweated to the oldies and the final inches soon melted away.
Finally, the day arrived. January 26, about 8 weeks from the first dress fitting. This was the final moment. And I was ready. I didn’t drink a lot of fluids that morning, and I waited to eat after the fitting. The dress came out. I held my breath. I stepped into it and started to pull it up. The dress SLID on. It didn’t just go on….it slid on. And it was BIG. I was now swimming in my dress, the same dress that at the end of November, I could barely breathe in. The same dress that did not even fit over my hips was now too big. Nearly TWO inches needed to be taken in on the corset! I had lost four inches, not just the two I needed to lose, on my hips for a total of nine, not six inches in two months! I had done it. Through the holidays, a bachelorette party, traveling for work and socializing with my friends!
Two weeks later, I was in Hawaii, wearing my beautiful dress and marrying my husband. It was a dream come true. In May, my husband and I had a larger wedding for family and friends in Boston. And guess what? The dress was even looser than it was in February. 😉
During this endeavor, it was all about losing inches and not weight. I did follow the scale somewhat but it was never about the weight. It was always about feeling better and being more comfortable in my body, and let’s face it, fitting into that damn gorgeous dress. 😉 But more importantly, it was about reclaiming a sense of control with my eating and who I am. My emotions were sometimes hard to manage. I felt like “Why did I let myself get into this situation?” and “Was all that food really worth it?” During times like this, I looked really hard at my goal and then remembered that I was addressing my situation, and that I was succeeding. Most people have felt like this at some point of their lives. And some persevere where others may fail. For me, I had a goal. I had to fit into that dress. I wanted to fit into that dress. I knew I could and would fit into that dress. Because the dress was symbolic of one important goal. To get back to the woman I always knew I was. And I did. 😉
My new eating habits are incredibly flexible. I can eat nearly anywhere, and if I slide a bit, it’s really easy to get back on the train because I have developed better habits with my eating, thanks to Emily’s guidance and my desire to treat myself better. Overall, my new eating routine has changed my complicated relationship with food, my body and my self-image. Because ultimately, in the end, it’s YOU that you wake up to every morning and love. 😉