Tuesday, January 30, 2018

41 is the new 40

This post is in partnership with Bicepts After Babies. Thanks for supporting partners here on TLM.

Some of you may remember that I had a goal to do 10 pull ups by my 40th birthday. (Which was last January.) The good news is that I went from being able to do 0 pull ups to an all time high of 4 pull ups. That was really big for me! What I may not have mentioned is that I only ever did 4 pull ups one time--the day after the election. Ha! I had a little extra fire in me that day. But on a regular basis I could only get up to 3 and sometimes only 2. I was truly happy with my progress and said I would continue to reach for that 10, but I've sorta let it go.

Looking back I realized that I never properly prepared myself for this goal. While I set the very measurable goal of doing 10 pull ups, my sub-goals to get there were not so measurable: Work out more and eat more protein. I definitely did both of them--especially the working out more--but when it came to protein intake I just assumed that having a protein shake after my workouts would be enough.

Additionally, I have been in a bad sugar rut. I eat plenty of healthy meals--lean meats, lots of veggies, and whatnot--but I've got a raging sugar tooth and it was taking up way too much mental space. If I wasn't eating sweets, I was thinking about sweets and when I could eat them next, and what I would eat and how much. At night when my kids were in bed this became particularly bad. A handful of chocolate, became two handfuls, became a little more and maybe just one more. At which point I'd go to bed, feeling sick from another night of too much sugar.

Between both of those conundrums I realized that what I was missing was a balanced nutritional component. I wanted to find someone who could help me figure out how much protein I should be adding to my diet, as well as someone who wasn't going to tell me I had to completely redo my entire eating lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with eating paleo, keto, whole 30, vegetarian, vegan, etc. but for me, the idea of starting from scratch wasn't going to work. For the most part I consider myself a healthy eater, therefore I just wanted to find something to help me adjust my framework a little.

So I waited.

At some point I started following Amber's Instagram account Biceps After Babies. (I actually found her through one of my very favorite recipe sites Our Best Bites. My family's favorite meals come from them.) On her Instagram Amber talks about tracking macro's (fat, carbs and protein) and how she loves eating this way because it was super flexible. You can have a cookie or ice cream, just fit it into your macros. It was a step above calorie counting (which I had done before) because it was helping you get more lean calories into your diet, while still giving you flexibility.

But here's what really got me. One day Amber said, "I like to encourage women to lift weights so they start focusing less on what their body looks like and more on what it can do." Yes. I had a similar experience when I went from debilitating back pain, to pain-free living again and pushing myself to work harder and do more just because I could. I love feeling my body getting stronger and achieving goals I would have once thought unachievable.


Working out and physical activity plays an important role in my life as a means of stress management and improving my mental health, but it has also taught me a lot in terms of achievement and reaching goals. I still hear Jillian Michaels in my head on a regular basis saying, "When you see what your body can do physically, it will translate into every area of your life." That has felt very true for me. As I've progressed from 10 push ups to 15 to 25 and eventually 100 push ups in a single morning workout (4 sets of 25) I have felt empowered by my body and what it can actually achieve when I work for it.

So I reached out to Amber and asked if we could work together. She said yes and here we are. I thought I'd walk you through Amber's services and my goals and tell you a little bit about how it's going so far.

Services:
Macro Setting: One of the big parts of hiring Amber is that she helps to set your macros. By "setting your macros" I mean she tells you how many grams of fat, carbs and protein you should be striving to eat each day. It's a lot like calorie counting and easy to do if you use an app and a kitchen scale. You don't need a coach to set your macros--I did attempt to do this myself and she has plenty of free resources that will point you in the right direction. But she takes multiple things into account when setting these--your goals, your current workout regimen, time frame, weight, body mass, etc. Also, depending on what your goals are at different times in your life, your macros will change. These aren't one-time, fixed numbers.

Tips and advice: Even something flexible like macro tracking has a learning curve to it, especially since for most people you are trying to really increase your protein intake and you don't always know where to begin. She sends a newsletter each Monday with tips, recipes, and encouragement.

Personal help: She also encourages you to reach out either text or email if you have any questions or are feeling frustrated or stuck. This is really great. It's only been a little over a week and I've reached out a number or times and Amber has gotten back to me in a timely manner.

Community: You also have access to her Biceps after Babies FB page where people share other tips and recipes. That's where I learned about these Yasso froze greek yogurt bars! They are my new favorite!

Fitness advice: Amber is a serious fitness guru and weightlifter. I talked to her about my 10-pull-ups goal and wondered if they were achievable within my current lifestyle. Meaning, I don't want to radically change my workout habits, I'm not going to join a gym or start lifting for 2 hours a day. She gave me some really good advice to achieve my goals within my current habits.
Goals: 
10 pulls ups. That's still my goal. It might actually be a chin up, but whatever...10 of either one is great for me.

Lean up. One of the main benefits of counting macros is that it's about losing fat, not weight. I don't want to trim down much--I honestly can't really put a number to it because if I'm gaining muscle but losing fat I don't know what that would look like on the scale, and I'm not even sure about inches. So at this point, I'm just kinda watching and seeing how it goes.

Sugar control. Already this has been the biggest shift. And it really feels so freeing. There's something about having a number I'm trying to hit by the end of the day--including a treat or two here or there--that lets me know that I'm done and I can stop eating now. I honestly did not expect this, but instead of just forever saying "just one more, just one more" I feel completely done and satisfied when I've hit my numbers. I am not constantly thinking about treats and sugar. The accountability of having another person involved--and not in a authoritative way, but as a mentor--has been more helpful than I would have thought. I'm sure there's some psychological explanation for why that is, but for now I'm just glad to feel good about limits and staying within those limits.

Right now I'm planning on working with Amber for 6 weeks, and we're over a week in already. I'm not sure that I'll hit my pull up goal in that time (especially since I was sick for almost 2 weeks and haven't worked out during that time) But already I feel a little trimmer and my protein intake is going strong, so I know I'm set to start adding some muscle. For me it's been great to realize that for the most part I didn't need to make any radical shifts in my eating habits, but that little tweaks here and there can make a big difference. For example, Amber taught me that I should switch to Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt because greek yogurt has a whopping 18 grams of protein per serving! (vs. about 4 for the regular stuff.) 

The hardest part of the this program is actually taking the time to track and weigh your food. Like I said, I've counted calories before so I already had a jumping off point for doing this and had a lot of foods in the app I use (the app I use is Lose It, most people use My Fitness Pal) but still, weighting everything you eat every time feels daunting at first. BUT, this is not a long term situation. Amber doesn't want people weighing their food forever. When I'm done with the 6 weeks she will help me figure out a long term plan which might include adjusting my macros, revisiting my goals, and more specific workout regimen.

I'll be reporting back to you at the end of my 6 weeks to let you know how it all went. Let me know if you have any questions about the program or the process below and I'll be sure to answer them or get Amber to jump on here and answer them as well. Anyone else a macro counter?  

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