Ahhh, cardio… Anyone who knows me knows that it’s definitely not my favorite thing in the world. While I’d often…
Quick-fix/get-shredded 7-day diets…
Fast food and junk food everywhere you look…
Super hardcore fitspo…
The rise in popularity of bikini and figure competitions…
BS cleanses and detoxes…
Belly wraps and waist trainers…
My goodness, all that noise sure makes it hard to figure out once and for all how to look and feel your very best, doesn’t it? There are so many conflicting messages out there telling us what’s best for us. These messages come from the media, Hollywood, advertisers. Sometimes they even come from our own family, friends, and coworkers, who mean well but are often just as misinformed.
Whether you’re getting started, or have been at it for years, on either end of the spectrum, it’s all. too. much.
For someone who hasn’t worked out much, the idea of “getting in shape” can feel extremely overwhelming and unattainable, making it hard to even get started.
Some of you who do take the plunge and get started usually end up trying one “solution” after another, but end up feeling like nothing seems to work. You buy programs, books, and supplements. You sign up for diet challenges. You live by arbitrary nonsensical rules (“Whatever you do, don’t ever eat after 6PM” or “Women should lift light weights for high reps” come to mind).
It’s easy to accept these “rules” and fad practices as diet/fitness gospel because they’re repeated everywhere by — you guessed it — the media, Hollywood, friends, or coworkers. You figure, “They must work or their popularity wouldn’t persist.” Then you think, “Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Why isn’t it working for me?”
On the other extreme of the spectrum, some of you may be so committed to eating well and exercising that your lifestyle is actually making you feel worse instead of better, both physically and emotionally. Yet it can feel scary to let go of that lifestyle.
We get it. We so get it.
At Girls Gone Strong, we’ve spent years developing and refining the formula that we know really does help you look and feel your very best—without obsessing over every rep at the gym and every calorie on your plate.
This formula is so simple and accessible that some people don’t want to believe it works. It’s too simple to be effective, you might say, because you’ve been conditioned by years of misinformation to believe that if you’re not suffering, the results won’t come.
Trust me, this pretty much works for everyone, whether you’ve never set foot in a gym, or you’re a 20-year training veteran.
It took a long time and a lot of trial and error with my own and my clients’ nutrition and training to distill this formula down to its most simple, yet effective form. Now, it works beautifully, and I continue to improve it based on results and feedback.
If you’re interested in learning how I developed this formula, you can read my story below. If you want skip all this and get to the heart of the formula, click here.
In 2004 when I decided that I wanted to “get fit,” I didn’t actually have any idea what that meant. I just knew that it sounded good at the time. I was overweight, sedentary, and unhappy with how I looked and felt.
I knew I wanted to look better and feel better, but I didn’t know how to do it, so I hired a personal trainer. I worked with him for about six weeks and saw some results. It wasn’t anything mind-blowing, though. During this time, I shifted my diet from fast food 3-4 times a day to giant ham and turkey sandwiches, sugary yogurt, and Gatorade. It was nowhere near healthful, but definitely better than fast food.
As the years went by, I became more and more interested in fitness. I started dating a guy who was a personal trainer, and I spent the next five years competing in Figure and Powerlifting.
During this five-year period, I was obsessed with training and nutrition, and it dominated my thoughts all day long. I loved thinking about when I would get to go to the gym next, what I would do when I was there, what I would eat before I would go, what I would eat after I went, what I might eat on my cheat day, when my next meal was—on and on and on.
It all came to a screeching halt in 2009 when I realized that at 24 years old, I was so exhausted that I would hardly get off the couch to get a glass of water. My body felt physically depressed—exhausted, heavy, run-down, lethargic. To top it off, I was experiencing some major unexplained weight gain.
I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism), PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), and Adrenal Dysfunction (a discoordination between my brain and my adrenals). I felt just awful.
Long story short, I’d run my body into the ground with intense exercise, restrictive eating, and poor sleep quality.
Oh yeah… I slept like crap because I was working a part-time restaurant/bar job. While I got enough sleep, I was getting to bed between 4 and 6 am, a few nights a week. I decided then that I needed to shift my priorities and take care of my health, first and foremost. Motivated by this new goal, I set out to develop the optimal training and nutrition plan that would help me look and feel good without stressing or obsessing the way I had been doing all these years. Once I started to figure this out, I wanted to share it with other women.
Why? Because in my experience, most women—including me—just want to:
This requires finding our own personal intersection of:
What a lot of women don’t realize is that if you prioritize any one of these categories, the other three tend to suffer a little bit. That’s why maintaining all four in balance works so well.
For far too long I prioritized aesthetics and performance over my health and my lifestyle. Every day, I see many women doing the same thing, without even realizing it. Reaching a place of balance feels unrealistic. But what is unrealistic is the imbalance.
Many women don’t recognize that participating exclusively in “extreme” fitness activities and competitions—like figure/bikini, powerlifting, marathons/triathlons, or CrossFit, especially at high or elite levels—is usually not the optimal route to looking and feeling their best.
To be clear: this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate or compete in these activities.
What I mean by this is that you should be honest with yourself about what your goals and priorities are.
If your current priority is competing in CrossFit, that’s awesome. But you’re going to spend a lot of time training, eating, doing soft tissue work, sleeping, and trying to recover from what you’re doing in the gym.
If your current priority is losing body fat, that’s totally cool. But you should recognize that your gym performance may suffer a bit, your lifestyle will probably be less relaxed, and if you’re trying to get very lean, your health may suffer a bit as well.
If your current priority is enjoying your lifestyle while on vacation with your family, that’s perfect. Just know that your aesthetics, performance, and health might all suffer a bit from extra food and beverages and a lack of exercise (if that’s how your family vacations, that is! It’s definitely how mine does!)
Any extreme sport or activity places excess demand and stress on the human body, whether it’s CrossFit, powerlifting, marathons, or figure competitions. This is OK, but you should understand that most people can’t keep this up forever. Between balancing work, family, kids, and life in general, at some point, these activities have to take a backseat for most women. This doesn’t mean that fitness has to take a backseat, but at some point devoting many hours to fitness every week might no longer be realistic or sustainable. The mental and physical output required to participate in these activities day in and day out for years is exhausting, and burnout is nearly inevitable for most women.
Have a plan in place so that when the “lights turn off” and you want to pull back a little bit, you know what to do to look and feel your best.
All too often, women (and men) don’t have a plan in place for how to train, eat, and live in a balanced way once they are no longer participating and competing. They feel like a failure for “only” working out four to five hours a week, and they don’t know how to eat healthfully without a plan. What’s more, they often experience a strange emptiness or depression now that they are no longer laser-focused on a particular goal or competition, or feel a loss of identity when they are no longer known as, “that super-hardcore-fit woman.” Finally, they don’t even know what a balanced fitness and nutrition regimen looks like. They spent years training and eating at an extreme level in order to achieve a certain aesthetic or performance goal,
On the other hand, for those of you who have struggled to get moving, and have struggled with overeating and consistently making poor food choices, you’ve been made to feel like your only options are to go hard or go home. No wonder you’ve just gone home. Fitness has seemed like this completely unattainable foreign thing that isn’t for you.
You know what? That’s just not true. It is possible to live a fit and healthy lifestyle without letting fitness be your life. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming or scary. Especially if you have the qualified, knowledgeable coaches and a supportive, positive community of women behind you.
Below is the formula that we use at Girls Gone Strong to help women reach their goals.
So what does that look like exactly?
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