I was going to wait to tell you guys. But I am so excited, I can’t wait any longer!
Strong AND Sexy but Sucking it in!
I’ve had a poochy belly for as long as I could remember. After I did my transformation, unfortunately, I still had a pooch. I didn’t share about this at the time, but I continued losing weight after hitting my ideal Venus proportions and began going down the dangerous path of disordered eating and dysmorphic thinking so common to fitness professionals.
Even though I am super proud of my glute progress, I have to suck in very hard in all side view photos
Luckily, with the strong community support forum, I was able to not go too far down that rabbit hole and really take the time to integrate my new body while still wondering what to do about the pooch. I won’t fib; fab fashions finally fitting helped a lot! How freeing to flit fabulously around a fitting room, full of felicity and festivity!
Meanwhile, I kept at work both inside and out, improving my gut health and doing workouts to address core strength and functioning. I went through a series of programs which may be wonderful but unfortunately, they all seem to have been too advanced.
The problem with advanced core exercises is that if you are not able to engage the proper muscles, you won’t learn to by doing things that are too advanced. Seems kind of obvious, but if you don’t even realize you are compensating with the wrong muscles, you will never get back to basics and learn. And that is exactly what I kept running into with these programs. I was able to move through the levels or phases but nothing really seemed to be changing in terms of core engagement.
I have just started a new program and I can finally, fleetingly, feel new muscles engaging! It’s still a bit tricky to feel it consistently, but I finally feel confident that I will learn to engage correctly and this will not only help all my lifts and my back health, but it will lead at last to that elusive flat belly and perhaps feeling comfortable in a slinky dress and going in public in a bathing suit!
This is my affiliate link to the program and I would really appreciate it if you would purchase through this link if you do decide to buy this amazing program! I will keep you posted on how it’s going perhaps even get bold enough to share some before and after photos at some point!
Affiliate link: Mutu Systems
If you do decide to purchase the program, I strongly recommend getting a small Pilates ball like this one.
It’s a heck of a lot easier to shop when clothing fits well, which kinda goes with the territory when you approach your best shape. Shopping pains (you know, where you stand in the dressing room near tears wondering why manufacturers can’t seem to make anything that flatters your particular shape, and yes, I’ve been there!) are largely a think of the past. It is amazing to look at size charts and scan right down tops and bottoms and yup, they’re all pretty darned close to my measurements! Same for my whole family!
I still have my own particular quirks like being stupidly tall, having a long torso, and sloping shoulders, for example, that make some looks seriously unfortunate on me, but for the most part, so long as the color suits me, I can pretty much know most things will look good on me.
So now it’s a matter of only allowing in items that make me feel amazing while letting go of things that just don’t make me feel like a million bucks.
From this month’s carefully chosen items:
Under Armour top natural light $6 at Plato’s Closet Consignment Store
Athleta booty shorts $14.99 at online seasonal sale with special free shipping coupon! These even sport a little iPod pocket!
As I have just gone up 2 sizes in shorts, the situation was getting pretty dire. It’s just not pretty to have the leg roll all the way up so underwear is practically showing, plus it’s uncomfortable. If I’d been able to find these locally, that would have been my first choice. eBay is also a good bet for getting a good deal but this price wasn’t bad for something I’m going to get an awful lot of use out of.
For those of you who were not aware, I am a lifelong owner of everything by John Barban and Brad Pilon that is included with Venus Immersion.
Right now, they are offering a short trial that includes access to absolutely everything, including the incredible podcasts that have taught me not only how to get to my ideal shape, but to maintain this shape for life with absolute minimum effort.
A friend I was training yesterday commented that she was inspired that only 3-4 hours a week at the gym is enough to stay like this.
I normally hate promotional videos and can’t sit through them but this one is point after point of what you will learn, all true, I absolutely promise! And they are true to their word about refunds.
Also, anyone who orders through my link gets lifetime access to my Inner Circle, where I will personally answer all your questions and support you for life. Simple contact me with your receipt and I will set you up.
Hiding in Plain Side
If you’ve ever stumbled across transformation photos of me online, you might notice a glaring lack of side view photos.
That is not by accident. It is because I was always so ashamed of the look that I never submitted the actual side view photos. I cheated it a bit by showing more of a frontal side view that hides the butt.
And try as I might by practicing posing, using stupidly high heels, losing yet more body fat, building more muscle, crazy arching and belly sucking in techniques, I could never seem to manage a look where my butt was bigger than my belly.
Observe! Exhibit A!
The photo on the right is from a photo shoot earlier this year, after two years of focus on Bret Contreras‘ glute programs.
And lest you think we all need to strut around in bikinis to show off this hard work, think again. I submit Exhibit B: my before and after clothed look which tells the whole story in no uncertain terms.
A note about posing for photos and posture in general. Over the 2 year period I took most of these bikini photos, I struggled with posture and self-consciousness about my belly being bigger than my butt. In most of my contest photos, I am arching my back to the point of extreme pain, simply to try to create the illusion of a bigger butt. You can tell in body building competition photos that women are doing this because the groove in their back is not even top to bottom.
It is neither good to slouch and tuck the pelvis under, as I am clearly doing in some of these photos, nor to arch and throw the lower back into spasm. My transformation has involved a lot of hard work, relearning how to use my body both in the gym and the other 23 hours of the day. I have been studying the Gokhale Method for over a year now. Improved posture has greatly reduced my back pain, improved core muscular tone, and improved my self-confidence as I embrace standing taller and with more open body positioning.
We can and should improve for life. When we are not striving, we are shrinking. How are you growing and challenging yourself? What metrics are you using to be certain you are achieving your goals?
About 6 months ago, I got very serious about my colon health and started a serious colon cleanse. You can read all about what book I read and products I used here.
The program lasted about 3 months and by the end, I have to admit that my colon felt better than it ever did.
So now it’s time to share the full story. I don’t like to talk about this shiz, but the fact of the matter is that it is important to get these topics on the table.
My Personal Colon Health Story
As a child, I was The World’s Pickiest Eater. Unfortunately, there was no award. I could happily have lived on stuff like cereal, soda, Pop Tarts, spaghetti, cake, and ice cream. Getting any other food into me was a battle. There were occasionally cold salads eaten (chicken, tuna, potato, cole slaw) but nary a vegetable passed my gullet.
Since it was the 1970s or maybe it was because I was raised by my father who didn’t overstock the pantry, I often went without eating at all, so at least I was lean and my system got breaks but I was a weak, sickly child who couldn’t manage any physical activity and was definitely picked last in gym class.
At 13, I moved in with my mom and became an ethical vegetarian. By the age of 16, I was so weak and sickly that I was fainting a good 20 times a day. I remember at summer camp, not pooping once for the whole two weeks, and not especially thinking much of it. I just could not poop in a stall or with others within earshot. Or with anyone aware of where I was and what I was up to. Or with any kind of time constraint. I was quite used to my tummy pooching out and with typical girl insanity thinking, I thought this was fat so I kept myself lean in an effort to flatten my belly. Meanwhile, I stretched my colon out and continued to rarely experience proper bowel function.
“I was quite used to my tummy pooching out and with typical girl insanity thinking, I thought this was fat so I kept myself lean in an effort to flatten my belly.”
Constipation is Not Normal!
Many of my friends live their lives with poor bowel function.
Some signs of poor bowel function:
- feeling bloated or uncomfortable
- not having at least one daily bowel movement (some say 2 or more),
- small pellets or
Late last summer, I had an x-ray that revealed I had too much in my colon. I was not surprised as I went in quite constipated. The mainstream advice went thusly:
- have 42g fiber/day (they supplied a list of fiber rich foods, none of which I can tolerate)
- take a stool softener
- see a GI specialist
I tried that path. Here is the problem with the fiber recommendation. Pretty much all of the foods they recommended are pure agony to my belly and there was no way I was going to get even close on a diet comprised of so little refined flour and legumes without supplementing. Unfortunately, the supplements are, guess what: bloating! So that was out. Further, I am pretty sure that advice is to counter the horrible standard American diet we have come to accept as normal.
The stool softener seems a fine idea but I don’t agree with their mainstream mystery pellets because A) I couldn’t figure out what the heck was in them and B) they didn’t actually work for me! I use magnesium citrate instead.
As to seeing a GI specialist, the waiting list was many months, the price was a minimum of $600, and we don’t have insurance, so I decided to just tackle this on my own. That brings us to my last post where I began the 3 month cleanse.
But Detoxing is Not Normal!
Some will say we are not meant to do a cleanse (or detox). I would argue that it is not healthy nor normal to carry around crap in our colon. I don’t care how mainstream you are; I am sure you can agree that if it shows up on an x-ray, that’s bad! If the bowels are not functioning normally, it clearly becomes necessary to do the following:
- clear them the heck out
- fix the problem going forward
People have been autopsied with up to 40 pounds of junk stuck to their colon walls. Clearly, detoxing is part of the “new normal” after all the mess we’re putting our poor systems through!
One of the issues with our guts is with all the crap we eat. You can take all the probiotics in the world but they can’t take hold in the gut because all the, um, bad biotics (what the heck are those guys called) have taken hold so strongly. You see what I’m getting at? There is just no real estate left for the good doobies so they just make for some expensive poop.
So step one to proper gut health is to clear that crap out of the way!
I’m sure you are all wondering how my big cleanse went! Well, actually, it went great! The book warned me that I might have many bowel movements each day and to progress to each step only as ready. In fact, I tended to only have 1 a day, in the morning, and if I didn’t have magnesium citrate the night before, I needed to take special action to ensure a bowel movement (more on that later).
Towards the end of the 3 months, I decided to test my progress and have a few colonics. A colonic is basically a non-stop series of enemas. If there was still a lot of old, impacted fecal matter up in my colon, I would expect to see crazy amounts of stuff coming out. I have nothing to compare this experience to but I didn’t notice all that much in the view tube in any of my 3 sessions so I can only assume that I was already pretty well cleaned out by that point.
Colon Health Post Detox
Once I completed the cleanse, I noticed that although I felt better overall, including my attitude about life, I still had to be super careful about eating. My main caveat is I cannot just throw down enormous quantities of food. I can party once in a while and overindulge but it’s really better for me in general to stick to whole, healthy foods and keep the portion size reasonable.
Further, I do better if I continually strive to toss down science projects. Ya know, counter top experiments? Not sure what I’m talking about? Stuff like
- beet k’vass,
- and anything else that might have live cultures and restore the gut health.
How to Ensure A Bowel Movement
If you are not having at least one healthy bowel movement a day (some would say more), here is what I recommend you do.
- take at least 400 mg of magnesium citrate about 1/2 hour before bed (I dissolve it in water)
- in the morning, have a big glass of water (a splash of lemon juice helps)
- learn whether you’re better off eating, not eating, and/or having some coffee to help get things moving (I choose coffee)
- Now Listen! There are 2 ways the urge to poop happens. Either it’s like someone taking you by the collar and marching you down the hall, or it’s a gentle tap as if by a ghost on the shoulder. If you are one of the former types, well good for you and your well-spoken colon. If you are one of the latter types, like me, listen for that tiny soft reminder and get the heck to the bathroom post haste.
- lock the door
- use a squatty potty or stool to raise your feet if that helps
- and under no circumstances should you strain! That can cause a cycle of hemorrhoids which leads to pain which leads to holding back which leads to constipation (ask me how I know!)
If you find you are constipated, before you even think of taking something like senna, I would strongly recommend using Vitamin C in high dosages to force a bowel movement. If you try that and still find yourself constipated, then take an enema (if you’re brave – I’ve never tried that), a colonic (braver still), or try some senna but do not do the latter more than once every rare once in a while! Senna is habit forming and will cause the exact opposite of what we’re after which is a toned, healthy functioning colon, not a weak lazy clogged one!
I am not under any delusions that my colon is all great and wonderful. What I’m likely living with is a stretched out saggy nasty looking thing with pockets that like to hide stuff. Further, the colon walls may not be the best at absorbing nutrients and I still need to rebuild good gut health.
The focus will continue to be on my science project probiotics and taking some probiotic pills periodically. This is for life.
I will also continue to take regular breaks from eating. There is nothing better for the feeling of cement in the belly than just not throwing down anything else for a while!
I will have a colonic series done again in a few months to take a baseline of what’s going on and repeat the cleanse in another 3 months for at least 3 months. It is a very big commitment but I have to do everything I can to continue to heal because my gut health is still not right! There are days when I hear noises and experience discomfort. Worst are the days when the belly pooches out so much that I have to cancel plans; there is no way I am going to leave the house with it hanging out like that!
What about you? How is your colon health doing? What have you tried or what testing have you undergone? Would you consider trying any of the ideas posted above? Do you have any suggestions on other ways to restore colon health?
Who doesn’t want to serve their family healthy, delicious meals and have the preparation and cleanup be a cinch?
Here are my big wins on getting this done.
Join a CSA
Locally grown vegetables from your farmer’s market vary during the season and force you to try new flavors.
This is not for the beginner. If you are just learning to enjoy more vegetables, perhaps start with salads and broccoli, adding in more variety one thing at a time. But when you are ready for more nutrients, flavor and challenge, you won’t find a better value than joining a CSA. Meanwhile, support your local farmer’s markets regularly. Even just trying new herbs and spices will give your body all kinds of good healing and energy and your palette a treat!
Source Local Protein Sources
We find all manner of protein through what might appear to be drug deals! We are “that family”, meeting up in a Lowe’s parking lot to get grassfed beef, locally raised free range pork, goat, even venison (not trying that one again).We just got rid of our chickens so we will be finding local sources for happy free range eggs. When our sources are dry, we resort to some use of protein powder to hit our daily minimum requirements (50g for women and 70g for men) and then look forward to restocking the freezer and living high on the hog again!
Now put it all together!
Take some protein and veggies and forget about recipes! Get yourself a Wonderbag!
What, pray tell, is a Wonderbag? Glad you asked!
Only the niftiest invention since the slow cooker. I had a slow cooker that I used a handful of times to produce incredible meals. How amazing to come home to a house that smells like someone’s been cooking all day but all you did was toss a few things in a pot!
So why did I stop using mine? First of all, it was too small to feed our family so we were all left deeply disappointed. And secondly, I heard that they leech lead. That freaked me right out. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, but in our toxic environment, I don’t need to continue doing anything so risky.
The night I first read about this cool Wonderbag, I spent a full 5 minutes considering and just ordered immediately. I shared with a few friends who all missed out because they sold out that same night. Many of them learned you can make your own and more power to you if you’re all crafty like that but I know by now I dream more than I do when it comes to this sort of project.
UPDATE: One of the bonuses of the Wonderbag is that it doesn’t let any odors out. If you are home, no dealing with the tantalizing smells. And no residual odor for days!
How does the Wonderbag work?
It’s very simple. You simply get your own 8 quart pot all loaded up and nicely heated and then pop it inside the bag, seal it up, and done. It works by holding in the heat. If you touch it, there is simply no energy leakage. A nice bonus is you can use minimal fat to prepare your meals so there is no guilt going back for
UPDATE: I am going to list how I make use of this wonderful new cooking method.
Wonderbag Cooking Ideas
- brown rice – left for way longer than you’d normally cook it
- yucca – no worries about all the water boiling off because it cooks so darned long
- stews and soups, both vegetarian and meat based
- braised goat/sauteed onion (no added fat), herbs & spices, finely chopped collards and fennel, mung beans, water & chicken stock
- more to come
I am busy developing a workout program for moms (and their teens ages 13 and up) that they can do while their babies are with them, even if they are babywearing*.
There are experts and organizations who promote similar models but what is different about my program is the kids needs are met at all times.
How Does it Work?
In any new situation, even the smallest of babies is looking around, learning, trying to do what everyone else is doing. So while you might try to exercise at home and find that your kids are a hinderance, when you do the same thing in a group setting, the kids quickly realize what their role is.
The classes are designed so that moms can take a break to nurse, kiss a boo boo, feed a snack, redirect, etc, and then jump back in where they were. Once the kids get the idea that their needs will continue to be met, they are on board and there are generally fewer distractions.
This class is ideal for moms who either can’t afford a gym membership or who, like me, have a child who simply won’t be dropped off in the gym’s kidcare. My first daughter cried to the point of throwing up the one and only time I tried that with her and that is how she remained for a few years.
Why not just join Stroller Strides or Fit4Baby?
These programs are excellent but they lack a few things. First off, they are franchises with a hefty $5K startup cost. I invest every spare dollar into research and equipment. My program will have a minimal cost.
Second, the workouts will simply not be as well-designed as my workouts. Most workouts focus far too much on cardio and if there is strength work, it neglects the posterior chain and often focuses too much precious time and energy on smaller muscle groups. The strongest muscles in our body are on the backside of our bodies and working them effectively will help with strength, endurance, posture, self-confidence, and reduce pain. Time and efficiency are of the essence when kids are involved so we need to get ‘er done and then be there for our kids!
Currently, I am researching on the job how to use the minimal amount of equipment and lots of bodyweight moves so that everyone can get a solid, full body workout. Many of my ideas are from this wonderful bodyweight strength training book by Bret Conteras. You can download a free sample of Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy which includes some of the more challenging exercises to which I refer.
Other exercises include the use of a Jungle Gym (similar to TRX but more affordable), kettlebells, and bands.
Over the next few months, I will be developing an affordable ebook so others can use the model I’ve created and start a Glute Camp group in their area!
What do you think? Would you like to see something like this?
*All exercises done while babywearing must be done using a proper, safe, two shouldered baby carrier, worn front or back.
I am sure you are beyond thrilled that I have managed to hit a new PR with squats! So let me just tell you how long this has been in the making and a tiny bit of what has gone into this.
As part of my goal to improve my lean body mass, I used the program Anabolic Again Cluster Cycles and increase squats to 6 reps at 130 pounds for an estimated 1 rep max of 156 pounds. At the same time, increase other lifts including deadlift to 6 reps at 167 for an estimated 1 rep max of 200 pounds. But here is the kicker. Due to a deadlift related injury, I quit both deadlifts and squats, both very important lifts in order to take time to heal and learn better form.
Naomi and Al cranking out squats in Cluster Cycles workout
Anabolic Again is a serious program designed to help you achieve new levels of strength. I had thought I would repeat it again a year later but I was still not there with the form. The next time I do this program, I will likely cut it to 6 weeks and stick to lifts I have mastered. That is saying a mouthful! Perfect form is of the utmost importance when doing this level of volume and pushing to the limits.
Placed in Venus Index Open Level 2 Contest. I got quite ripped for this contest and maintained strength very well. I was able to perform 5 pullups at 137 pounds body weight. But I was still nursing a slightly injured lower back.
I took a job with a toxic boss and contracted a serious virus which kept me from doing anything at all for 2 months.
Seriously? The flu? Yup! I lost 10 pounds in 1 week while counting calories in an effort to make it to the kitchen and force feed myself 200 calories a day. That sounds really insane but apparently it is possible to suffer total loss of appetite and further, not eat anyway. And you can bet that 10 pounds was mostly lean body mass because I wasn’t sporting a lot of extra body fat.
Me, After the Evil Vile Virile Virus
Somewhat demoralized, I had a DEXA done that showed me as having 20% body fat. I’d like to be a bit leaner but the good news is I came through some serious health setbacks still very lean and now I’d learned that all stresses in life add up. Toxic jobs and people, too little sleep, too much on the plate all matters.
My daughter underwent surgery to get rid of an infection that had somehow gotten deep under her skin where antibiotics could not get at it. What a scary summer we had. And this spawned my summer focus.
Home after surgery
Gym is not the end-all-be-all in life. Yes, it’s lovely to be strong and fit but that can wait. The summer was spent watching my daughter closely to make sure she returned to full health and deep cleaning and decluttering the house. If there was any way the infection came from dirt, we were just not going to live like that. And the hospital stay made me realize she does not handle clutter well so I underwent a house transformation where we moved from Nearly Becoming Hoarders to Closer to Minimalist and shifted our values. I would like to find the courage to share more of what all went on during this transformative time. Scary, personal stuff!
Early Fall 2013
Lots of focus on training others and little focus on self.
Family Fitness Class
Holy cow! It’s time to take care of me again! Incredible study of form and posture have me finally willing to do heavy deadlifts and squats again and get the form fixed. Doing these lifts without pain and seeing them improve is huge for confidence. No longer is there a sense of urgency with no contests on the horizon. The need to see these lifts improve is purely part of my plan to increase lean body mass. Whether this will come to fruition or not remains to be seen but the lifts are, at last, improving.
Here is a video of a few lifts including my first excellent from injury free deadlifts.
And that brings us up to the present.
A new PR in squats of 135 for multiple single reps. Sure, the old estimated 1 rep max was much higher two years ago, but theory and doing are two different animals. And on the heels of that PR, a lot of study of the Gohkale method helped me understand knee tracking and foot position so using the so-called “kidney bean shaped foot”, I was able to do multiple reps of singles of 145, passing my body weight for the first time ever plus sets of 3 at 135 pounds, also a PR. And further, I have overcome the fear of having the big plates on the bar.
I’ve also been making steady progress in glute bridges and hip thrusts, which are both currently easily over 350 plates with solid form. Nice!
January 2014 Maintenance Photo 17% body fat
I expect to increase how much I can lift slowly by not overdoing squats but by also taking the time at least once or twice a week to do a proper warmup at an off-peak gym time and really focusing on the foot and knee placement. I will be adding in backoff sets. I’ve never done these with squats before but I have with hip thrusts and it is amazing how a weight that seems heavy during the warmup seems ridiculously light after the maximum weight is achieved.
I will do my best to prepare for these days but understand that due to variations with CNS on any given day, the actual best may not always be a record and, in fact, I may not be able to achieve my own bests on a consistent basis. And this is fine and to be expected. Progress does not have to be linear.
Here are some progress photos over my entire transformation.
Back Transformation to Date
Watching Grass Grow
Maintenance seems to look about as interesting as watching grass grow from the outside and part of that is the not letting anyone see you sweat because it sure looks stupid to sweat to stay where you are. But the truth is, I sweat and now I realize I always will.
My big news in 2014 is this is the first year in my life I did not gain holiday weight.
Woo hoo! The crowd goes wild!!!! I can hear you all from here. Wait, what’s that you’re saying? “Whatever!”
Well lemme tell you something! It is no small feat to stay in the same place in this culture of excess.
I took metrics before Thanksgiving and again on January 3rd and they were identical. And I attended an insane amount of events and pigged out at every single one. (My friends can attest to this, I assure you.)
So this means I worked very hard between. I made sure to hit my metrics weekly, as I always do, but this meant skipping breakfast at least 5 days a week and doing extra movement regularly too. Kind of Captain Obvious stuff, really, and yet last year and the year before even though I was a Maintenance Veteran, I started the new year demoralized, bloated, despondent, disappointed, and needing to get my ass in gear.
This year, I feel confident and accomplished and ready to accomplish goals relating to both my physique and my career. To that end, I will be sharing progress photos and DEXA results soon. Stay tuned to see if my body fat and lean body mass have changed from a year ago this time.