Hi Tom and everyone! I'd love to help others anyway I can; so many at the Inner Circle have helped me.
There were several different things that I did during the Burn the Fat Challenge that helped me achieve my goals. Here are the few that were most crucial to my progress.
1. Mental Preparation
Getting to a point of feeling uncomfortable in my own skin is what propelled me toward making the changes that I wanted. I knew that I didn't want to starve, I didn't want it to be painful, and I wanted my results to be long-lasting.
I started my journey by doing my homework. I read Tom's books and took a very honest personal inventory of myself. These were the questions that I asked myself that really made me think about what I wanted.
- What is it that I want to achieve? (If nothing was holding me back, what would I really want?)
- What are your goals? (Long term, 6 months, 3 months?)
- What are you willing to do to meet your goals?
- What's standing in the way of you achieving your goals?
- How are you going to overcome your obstacles to meet your goals?
For me, having the best body I've ever had is a personal goal. To some people, they think it's a pipe dream. Life and all of its responsibilities are important and I know that "best body ever" isn't a goal that everyone is willing to tackle. For some, simply being healthy and in good shape is their endgame, and that's a great goal to have too. Personally, I want more and I'm not afraid to chase after that over fear of failure. I know that anyone can have the best version of themselves if they are willing to make the sacrifices to achieve it.
After careful calculations and realistic time management, I decided that if I worked really hard (continued my training and good nutrition habits), I could meet my overall goal by New Years 2013. I needed smaller goals to fulfill in the meantime that would assist me along the way. The Burn the Fat Summer Challenge was a great tool for me to jumpstart my progress. I've met like minded people who are all trying to accomplish the same goal; burning excess body fat off for good.
My goal for the challenge was to burn 15% body fat. It was an ambitious goal, but after looking at the results from last year's top burners, I knew it was possible. I set daily and weekly goals. I tried not looking too far into the future and really focused on the present because that's where the hard work needed to be done.
After more reflection into what I wanted and what I was willing and able to do to meet my goals, I started planning and setting my priorities. Meal planning was my first order of business. Without a calorie deficit, I knew I couldn't burn the fat. With the way I was eating before this program, a calorie deficit wasn't possible. I started journaling my food intake before I made any changes just to see what my baseline was. I found that I was consuming anywhere for 2500-5000 calories a day! I'm ashamed to admit it, but that was a harsh reality I needed to face.
Exercise was my second priority. Before, I only played softball 2-4 nights a week, and knew it wasn't enough physical activity to meet my goal. My final priority was getting adequate sleep. Waking up morning after morning, tired, uncomfortable, and not rested at all was not what I wanted for myself anymore. Three to six hours of sleep a night wasn't cutting it. I want to look good, but more importantly I want to feel good.
There are several things that I foresaw as potential stumbling blocks. Here's a short list of my excuses that I knew I needed to give up:
"I don't have time."
I commute an hour each way to and from work and my days are long. I help out with family responsibilities by shuttling my little sisters around to and from activities or school. I'm active in church and in my community and volunteer a lot of my time. Time is precious, and my time is valuable. The way I overcame this obstacle was planning, planning, and more planning. I literally planned my butt off. My meals and meal times, my workouts, and scheduled in enough time for adequate sleep were all planned the night before at the latest and a week before at the most. I gave up watching TV and movies and told myself that I would only watch it during social events. If I had time for TV, movies, or anything else, it was after workouts and meal planning. I did spend the occasional night at the gym or in my garage working out, but everything always got done.
"My family or friends may not support my efforts."
I was really worried that other people that I was close to wouldn't understand what I was doing. I informed everyone of my plans before I set them in motion and asked if they were going to be supportive. If they weren't I was planning on limiting my contact with those individuals until they were on board. I was sure that someone would say no, but nobody did. Everyone was supportive even if they didn't understand my point of view. After everyone saw my before and after pictures, they ALL understood. Now some of my biggest skeptics are wanting to follow in my footsteps.
"I don't want to work out."
Lets face it. Working out is hard work. I've never been shy to this idea. I used to play competitive traveling softball, wrestled in high school, danced competitively, and grew up playing a number of team sports (basketball, volleyball, and soccer to name a few). I knew that burning fat would take even more effort than just your normal everyday workout. I wanted to maximize my efforts while minimizing my time. But I didn't want to feel the burn. During the Summer Challenge I leaned to love the burn and work through sore muscles. The burn is what caused my fat loss and I often look forward to my workouts now knowing each workout gets me closer to my goal.
"I just want to eat the junk that everyone else is eating."
Family meals, social gatherings, and celebratory occasions surround us all regularly. I was no exception. My office at work is located in the middle of an industrial kitchen. I see food more often than I don't see it. I planned my meals and ate regularly. If it wasn't apart of my plan, I would simply decline the offered food. I often boxed up the foods that I didn't eat and gave it away to people standing on the streets holding signs up that requested money for food. Overcoming this obstacle was easier than I thought. I always kept my planned meals on hand. I bought myself a cheap kids lunchbox and toted food around 24/7. During family meals and celebratory occasions I often ate differently than the rest of the group. At first it was a little awkward, but eventually it became so normal that no one ever questions it anymore.
The biggest thing I can say about mental preparation is set your goals and be realistic with yourself as to what you are willing to do to achieve them. Then get to work.
Let's face it. We all love food. Otherwise we wouldn't be here. Changing my diet was one of the biggest undertakings during this competition. I decided that I wanted to try clean eating. It's not a fad diet and it's simple. I eat clean 90% of the time and give myself a 10% leeway for the other foods that I like that I'm not willing to give up.
I followed a zigzag calorie pattern and gave myself 2 higher calorie days during the week, and the rest of the week are lower calorie days that never drop below 30% of whatever maintenance calories are for me. I recalculated my body's needs each week after I weighed in and tested my body fat. This really helped move me along in my progress. Any little gain I made toward my goal was carefully considered each week so I could build on it the next week.
Here's how I made meal planning work for me:
Pick proteins first: I'm not much of a meat eater and it's difficult for me to get enough protein. During the challenge 40% of my calories came from protein. I ate a lot of fish, some chicken, and supplemented with protein shakes. I didn't go crazy and spend a lot of money on protein powder either. Just everyday store brand generic protein powder works for me. I also looked up each protein source to ensure I hit my goals. Each quantity of protein is determined by whatever my goals may be for that day.
Once you've picked out all of your proteins, lay them out in the order that you want to eat them. Here's an example of what mine often looked like.
Meal 1: White fish (Yes I eat fish for breakfast, and no I doesn't bug me)
Meal 2: Cottage cheese
Meal 3: White fish
Meal 4: Protein powder
Meal 5: Egg whites
Then pick complex carbohydrates: I often focus on green veggies. I happen to like vegetables and understand that many people don't like a lot of them. Eat the ones you do like and eventually your tastes may change. During the challenge 40% of my calories came from carbohydrates (simple and complex combined).
Pick simple carbohydrates: The simple carbs that I choose are almost always in the form of fruit. I do like chocolate, breads, and pastries. I omitted the breads and pastries during the challenge and replaced them with alternative like oatmeal, couscous, and quinoa. I kept the chocolate in my diet in the form of protein powder. I've been able to replicate a lot of different candy bar flavors by using chocolate protein powder and sugar free flavored syrups.
Then after carbohydrates are picked, I add them onto my menu (with proper quantities to hit my nutrient goals of course)
Meal 1: White fish, banana
Meal 2: Cottage cheese, Oatmeal
Meal 3: White fish, couscous
Meal 4: Protein powder, apple
Meal 5: Egg whites
Pick your fat last (but only if you need it): Eating clean often required me to increase higher fat foods in my diet. I wasn't getting any hidden fat from processed foods anymore. Some of my go-to high fat foods were peanut butter (on bananas) or raw almonds. They are added in appropriate quantities just like all of my other foods. I just add them onto my menu last and voila, menu planned. During the challenge 20% of my calories came from fat.
Again, I kept food on my person and within arms reach during the entire challenge. I always worked with a 20-30% calorie deficit. Keeping the deficit is important. I often carried my lunchbox around with my next meal or two, and I always had my current day's menu on hand to keep me on track. I kept a written menu inside my lunchbox and a digital menu in my phone. There was never any excuse why I didn't know what time or what I was supposed to eat next. But the biggest key to my nutrition was that I ate foods that I enjoyed in the quantities that were allowable to meet my goal. If you enjoy your healthy meals, you're more likely to continue eating them.
3. Training & Exercise
I think at this point it's safe for me to say that there is a difference between training and exercise. Exercise is for maintenance and for fun, if you enjoy what you're doing. Training is specific exercise that you do when there are changes to be made and goals to accomplish, and it can be fun too. I moved into the training mindset and incorporated weightlifting regularly. I told myself that a half an hour of my day is not a lot to give up and knew it would be worth the commitment.
During the Summer Challenge I lifted almost every day - usually 4-6 days a week. I started with lighter weights at the beginning of the challenge and gradually worked my way up to what I consider to be heavier weights. On the days that I didn't lift I was either backpacking/hiking during my summer Girl's Camp trip, or I was doing a group fitness class at the gym.
My lifting was primarily done in supersets and I committed to 2 different weight lifting routines that can be found in Tom's book The Body Fat Solution. It was a start and I didn't expect the great results that I got from what little time I put in. Because I scheduled my meals and sleep, I didn't see anything wrong with scheduling my workouts or using a preplanned workout routine to maximize my use of time. The only hard part was actually doing the work.
Here's the sample workout that I used throughout the entire challenge. It's great for beginners and anyone who hasn't weight lifted in a long time. I rotated each workout and never did the same one twice in a row.
Superset 1: Dumbbell squats. (Page 182 of the Body Fat Solution) 3 sets of 15
Birddog yoga pose (Page 183) 3 holds of the pose for 30 seconds each time.
Superset 2: Dumbbell split squats (Page 184) 3 sets of 15 (each leg)
Dumbbell rows (Page 191) 3 sets of 15
Superset 3: Dumbbell bench press (Page 189) 3 sets of 15
Plank yoga pose 3 holds of the pose for 30 seconds each time.
Last exercise: One legged calf raises (Page 188)
Superset 1: Roman dead lifts (Page 185) 3 sets of 15
Shoulder press (Page 190) 3 sets of 15
Superset 2: One-legged hip extensions (Page 186) 3 sets of 15 (each leg)
Dumbbell pull overs (Page 192) 3 sets of 15
Superset 3: Reverse crunches (Page 193) 3 sets of 15
Cross-knee crunches (Page 194) 3 sets of 15
Superset 4: Dumbbell curls (Page 195) 3 sets of 15
Double arm dumbbell tricep-extensions (Page 196) 3 sets of 15
My only regret this summer is that I didn't incorporate much cardio into my routine. I started with weight lifting because I felt that it was important to maintain my muscle mass while I dropped fat. It actually helped me drop fat a lot quicker than I had anticipated too.
Cardio is slowly being inserted into my training routine now and should be a permanent addition by the Holiday Challenge. I started small in the training department because I didn't know how to workout outside of organized sports, and I didn't feel that committing to hours each day at the gym was realistic for me. Overall, exercise helps create a bigger calorie deficit and helps really reshape your body for the results that you want.
The results that I achieved and so many others have achieved is not a quick fix, miracle pill, or surgical intervention. It took a lot of hard work, planning, and dedication to stay on the path toward my goals. I didn't make drastic changes overnight. I didn't alienate my loved ones or myself over the sake of my lifestyle changes.
Mental preparation, adequate nutrition, and executed training have gotten myself and so many others where they are at today. It's a big undertaking to set out for, but I made 1-2 small changes at a time and slowly built upon each change. The pyramids weren't built in a day and neither are strong healthy bodies.
4. What would you tell someone who has been watching all these challenge results and is interested in entering one, but is hesitating?
If you are interested in entering a Burn the Fat Challenge, do it!
Join a team for more goal accountability. You're more likely to finish a challenge if you're on a team. Everyone is here for the exact same reasons you are, to burn the fat. Each person entering a challenge is really just competing against themselves, not everyone else. If you're not a "writer" and have trouble writing an essay, don't worry. Others in the Inner Circle are always willing to help. This isn't an English class in school. Just tell your story and explain how you got your results. It's that simple.
If you're afraid of taking your before pictures, don't be. Everyone here has before pictures. I knew mine were going to be bad before I took them, but I had no idea how much cellulite and body fat had accumulated on my backside. For me it was a great wakeup call and motivator. Now when I look at my before pictures I feel proud of my accomplishments….
But the biggest reason to enter a Burn the Fat Challenge is that YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT FAT - AND YOU CAN DO IT! :-)
~ ~Nikki Tuazon-Hodges~ ~
To visit Nikki's challenge journal ("Journey of a Million Steps"), CLICK HERE (members only)