Staying on track with your health & fitness goals through summer fun

With the start of summer coming in hot with Memorial Day weekend kicking it off tomorrow (or today for some!), that means cookouts and dinner parties, and with cookouts and dinner parties come good food! It’s very easy to let this time of year derail our health and fitness goals, but it’s also very easy to enjoy the fun foods and keep chipping away at our goals.

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If your family is anything like mine, every get-together is filled with a buffet table packed with the classic BBQ meats, casseroles, drinks, and desserts totally NOT healthified, a lot like the pic to the right! As much fun as it is to indulge in all of these things, it can add up very quickly, leaving all of your hard earned progress far behind. This is not to say you can’t enjoy these BBQ classics, but rather to say be smart about it! Instead of going HAM on these fun foods, consider this instead;

  • Eat prior to going. I know… no one wants to show up to a BBQ full. I’m not saying to show up full, just don’t show up hangry, ready to smash some food. Eat a nutrient-dense meal full of protein and fiber such as a veggie scramble or smoothie with whey protein powder, spinach, and light fruit for sweetness & consistency. This type of me will help balance blood sugar and not leave you stuffed so you can enjoy the foods provided.
  • Bring your own meat and side dish. This is a very easy way to control what you’re putting in your mouth. Take advantage of the “bring your own dish” rule and bring something that aligns with your goals. This way, you know exactly what ingredients were used and can fill your plate with these items knowing they won’t set you behind. Some good ideas would be chicken breast/legs/wings to grill and a cucumber salad as a side!
  • Fill youriinplate_1201106.jpeg plate with protein & vegetables first. Filling your plate with protein and vegetables first will not only set you up for a nicely balanced meal, but will also leave you less room on your plate for fun foods. 😉 My rule of thumb is to fill 3/4 of the plate before heading to the fun foods. It would look something like the pic on the left: 1/4 plate protein, 1/2 plate fruits & vegetables, 1/4 plate fun foods (the whole grains section of the pic) with about a spoonful of each. My favorites are my Gram’s beans and fruit salad or my mother-in-law’s banana cream pudding! They are a MUST at our family get togethers!

Putting these guidelines into practice at your family get together should set you up for success, because the key to this whole health and fitness thing is balance! It’s not necessarily certain foods that make us fail, but rather the amount and frequency of these foods. Enjoy all foods, in moderation!

The next common food-related-events of summer are dinner parties out with family or friends. Through my years of coaching, I’ve seen manylandscape-1444323280-stocksy-txp9eee683922d000-large-403198.jpeg people get really anxious when going out to eat because they can’t control exactly what’s going to come out on their plate. I’ve totally been there myself, too! The good news is that most any restaurant will do whatever you want if you just ask. Every time my husband and I go out to eat, I embarrass him with my odd order (maybe he’s used to it by now?!)… but being picky with my order its worth it to me to make sure I’m getting a meal that aligns with my goals. If you are looking to “healthify” your meal out, take these tips along with you next time you go.

  • Take your time to scan the menu to see what fits what you’re looking for. If there is a dish that looks like something you’re wanting but it’s not exactly it, chances are good the chef will change it up for you (with an added cost) to match what you’re looking for. Don’t be afraid to mix and match. If they offer the food in another dish but not the one you want, they’ll almost always add it in for you, and if you want to omit a certain item, ask to have it made without!
  • Ask for your food items cooked without butter or oil. Butter and oil add up QUICK in calories and most restaurants slop this shiz on. Yes, they add taste, but you don’t need nearly the amount they use and if you want it bad enough, you can ask for it on the side to control how much is going on your food. Personally, I ask for none because the taste isn’t that much of a difference enough for me to care.
  • Ask for all toppings on the side. This goes for sauces, cheeses, butter, oil, condiments, etc. Like I mentioned before, restaurants really pile these things on more than we would at home. Ask for them on the side and add the appropriate amount yourself.
  • Stop when you’re full. 9 times out of 10, the portion sizes we get at restaurants are 2x what we’d make ourselves at home. Really make sure to listen to your body and stop when you’re full. Ways to do this are to eat slower, actually chew your food, and stop to talk to whoever you’re with. If you listen, your body will tell you when it’s full!

 

Now with all of these tips, there are certain exceptions to be made in different situations. There are times and places to indulge, but it’s what we do consistently that gets us results. If we consistently make good, healthy food choices, we will continue to make that progress we’re striving for! It may be a little difficult to make these changes at first, but once you get comfortable and it becomes normal for you, it’s a rewarding feeling knowing you are working toward your goals even when eating out with family or friends! Try these out, and if you have any other tricks that you personally use, I’d love to hear!

 

** Plate picture credit: IIN

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Signs you have a hormonal imbalance & how to fix it

In honor of Women’s Health Week, I want to talk about female hormonal health (que my husband Collin peacin’ out of this post. HA!)

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This subject hits home to me because throughout my post-pubescent life, my hormones have never been right. As a teenager, I didn’t really see the symptoms as symptoms at all because I just thought it was normal. But, after my 2 year stretch of bodybuilding, I was ready to take a deeper look at my hormones because my body was showing me how glaringly obvious it was that things were imbalanced.

So, you might be thinking “how would I even begin to tell that I have a hormonal imbalance?”

Here are five symptoms of imbalanced hormones: 

  1. Your cycle is irregular, heavy, light, or non-existent. This is pretty self explanatory, but for me, throughout my teen years, my cycles were extremely heavy. After high school (and a three year stint of birth control), my cycles were irregular, and during/after bodybuilding, my cycles were non-existent. For 2.5 years to be exact. NO BUENO!!
  2. You have serious PMS. Bet you thought tender breasts, raging mood swings, serious cravings, the lovely “period zit”, bloat, and gut-wrenching cramps were all normal, didn’t you? Well, the fact of the matter is that this is NOT normal! So many women experience these symptoms, and typically, this is a sign that your estrogen is too high and your progesterone is too low.
  3. Persistent weight gain. When hormones are out of balance, our liver has a hard time doing it’s job to get rid of fat, so you may see weight keep piling on despite all of your efforts to eat well and exercise.
  4. Low libido. Yup. Nothing is wrong with YOU. Something is wrong with your hormones. This is a huge sign something is up. And the stress you’re experiencing in life is a huge factor in this!
  5. Constant fatigue. In this day in age, it’s so normal to be “exhausted” or “so tired” from a long, busy, demanding day. But, it’s not normal to wake up in this exhausted and drained state and feel like you just can’t wake up throughout the day. This is your adrenal glands telling you THEY are the tired and exhausted ones! When I was finally realizing something was up with my hormones, constant fatigue was a huge symptom of mine.

So, now that you’ve identified with some of these symptoms, you’re probably like “how the hell do I even go about fixing this!?!” The good news is that you have the power to help your hormones get on track! The not-so-good news is that you can’t do it overnight. The symptoms and imbalance you’re experiencing have probably been brewing for a while, so it is going to take a little while to get things straightened out.

How to begin working with your body to balance your hormones:

  1. Get your hormone levels checked by a professional. When I decided to take action to get my hormones aligned, I went to a family medicine doctor in my town & explained all of my symptoms to her. She ran blood tests on me that did in fact show my hormonal state, which was -1 of the three major hormones, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Later did I find out, saliva tests are more accurate because our hormones fluctuate throughout the day) they test hormone levels at 4 different times throughout the day, where blood tests only test you at that moment.
  2. Look into your lifestyle. Are you eating poorly, living a sedentary life, or are you dieting too hard and/or over exercising? These things will surely help throw hormones out of line. If you eat a diet consisting of too much junk (sugar), your body will have to over produce the hormone insulin, and spikes in insulin can disrupt production of other hormones. If you don’t eat enough food and/or over exercise, your body will over produce the stress hormone, cortisol, and deplete your progesterone, causing irregular cycles and many other problems.
  3. Assess the stress in your life. Going back to that hormone called cortisol, aka the stress hormone. Too much stress in any way, shape, or form, will cause you to over-produce cortisol. Stress can be caused by a bad drive to work, a bad interaction with a friend, not enough sleep, too much exercise, not enough food, too much exercise, and much more. As stated before, too much cortisol=bad news. Assess your stress and do what you can to eliminate it!
  4. Add in hormone-healthy supplements. This is a blog post in itself, but, I would recommend going to a function medicine doctor or naturopathic doctor to find out more on your condition and supplements that will help. There are some that I would recommend looking into such as; maca root, vitex (chasteberry tree), and evening primrose oil. Through my hormone recovery, I have been taking these and they have helped significantly with MY condition. (*Remember everyone is different and what works for me may not work for you!)
  5. Start cycle syncing. Everything I’ve spoke of here, I’ve learned from Alisa Vitti (who you can learn more about here), and she is the author of Woman Code, where I learned how to cycle sync. Cycle syncing is listening to your body and working with it, exercising, eating, socializing, and living in tune with the four different phases of your cycle. I recently started cycle syncing because I am still dealing with some residual hormone imbalances so I can’t speak on it yet, but I have read many posts on the success in doing this! Lee from America has a great blog on it here if you’d like to read more on it. Alisa Vitti does have a cycle tracking app called FloLiving that does cost, but is so worth it! It’s all you need to start cycle syncing!

With all of this, I hope I helped shed some light onto this sort of taboo topic. If you are interested in getting started with this but have no idea where to start, reach out to me and we can talk! I can help you get down to the nitty gritty and get on the road to healthier, happier hormones. Contact me here!

How my body image has evolved through my fitness journey & how CrossFit helped

I didn’t always struggle with my body image. I originally got into health and fitness in 2012 because I watched my Nanny (grandmother) pass away at 65 years old from a 10 year fight with breast cancer. Being at my most unhealthy weight, I wanted to start living a healthy lifestyle to prevent the same thing from happening to me.

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My Nanny and I about a week before she passed

It wasn’t until I got my first Instagram account that I started comparing my body to other girls’. I had reached my goals of creating healthy habits like exercising daily and eating whole, nutrient dense foods, as well as feeling good & getting the extra weight off my body that I gained after high school (pics below), but these ripped ladies on Instagram made me think, “wow, I can look so much better” and “dang, I’m not even close to ripped enough.” So, this is when I decided to pursue the “look like those women on IG” mission.

From there on out it was ALL about how I looked compared to other women. I was literally getting up on a stage next to women the same height as me, who have been working hard just like me to beat me, to be picked apart by a panel of people who would place me based upon how I looked compared to the other women. I am 100% extremist, so I got very into the “be better” mindset, which is a good thing, I just took it too far. Every day I worked to look better than I did yesterday, to look better the next time I got on stage, and to look better than the girl next to me. My body was NEVER GOOD ENOUGH. (This is not a bash on the sport of bodybuilding, this is just where I took it. Pics of me during this time below.)

Fast forward to summer 2016, post bodybuilding competitions, post hormone crash and Epstein barre diagnosis, I was very much into thinking my body should look a certain way in fear of how others would perceive me. I was still very lean from shows (see below), but I saw my body changing and getting “softer” and hated it and constantly wished I were back where I was just 3 months prior, which was an unmaintainable lean.

The weight gain continued as I did what I had to do for my health, and the hatred I had for my body grew even larger. I stopped exercising intensely by cutting out the 45-60 mins of cardio I was doing daily to allow my body to rest and repair, I started on hormone therapy in hopes of waking up my body and get it producing hormones on its own again, and I stopped counting/tracking/restricting the food I was eating after enrolling in the Beating Binge Eating program. (I’ll share a post on this program later!) After gaining 30lbs in a short period of time, my anxiety revolving around my body was at an all time high. I was self conscious going to my gym at the time because I was a personal trainer there and I worried what others thought of me for gaining weight. I was binge eating quite often so I was puffy, bloated, guilty, & self conscious. I didn’t wear tank tops because I thought my arms were fat. I HATED looking in the mirrors at myself when I exercised or trained a client. I dreaded walking through the gym where the people I knew looked at my changing body. I started avoiding taking on new clients because I didn’t feel like I was “fit enough” to teach others how to exercise. I wore baggy sweats, loose shirts, and workout clothes outside of the gym. I felt ugly and worthless. To be honest, I went through a depression because I had drug myself down such a dark hole. It’s very sad to look back at now… but this is where I was at.

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Double fast forward to fall 2016: post completion of the Beating Binge Eating program, post 30lb weight gain, post becoming Mrs. Ferguson, I found CrossFit!

Since I was feeling the way I mentioned above about going to my conventional gym, when I found out we had a legit CrossFit box in our town, I was super excited. I wanted to exercise, just not where I was and CrossFit always sparked my interest so I immediately went to check it out! When I first went into the box, I was shocked there were no mirrors! It was SO refreshing since I’d been so self conscious while being surrounded by mirrors at my conventional gym. I no longer saw myself while I was exercising and it made the stress of being at the gym go from 100 to 10 and allowed me to focus solely on my workout, rather than stress about how I looked the whole time. Beside this, the tone of the CrossFit community is completely different than the tone at my old gym. There is not much talk like “wow, you look awesome!”, but rather “damn, you killed that workout, you badass!” The focus on looks slowly started to fade, focus on my performance started to take over.

I’ve been doing CrossFit now for 6 months and even though not much has changed about my body since last fall, I’m finally at the point where I look at myself in the mirror and pictures and don’t have a negative thought. I don’t hate on myself when I look in the mirror or put on my jeans and shirt for the day. I am physically the most I’ve ever weighed in my life, BUT, I am stronger than I have ever been, my health is about 90% restored, and I’m happy. THAT, to me, is a win!! I finally believe that I don’t have to be shredded to be a healthy and fit, badass athlete. The word healthy is defined as: “in good health” or “not diseased,” and the word fit actually means: “in good health, especially because of regular physical exercise” and I am proudly BOTH of these. Thanks to CrossFit, I can finally see that my body is badass and love it for what it is!! I am finally loving who I am today and enjoying the process of bettering myself every day!

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My history with Bodybuilding

Where it all began…

About a year and a half into my health and fitness journey, I discovered the sport of bodybuilding through some amazing fitness inspirations on Instagram, and it really interested me. I had just gotten all of the weight off that I gained after high school, plus some, I was lifting weights in the gym and loving it, and I was ready for a new challenge to take my physique to the next level. The thought of having abs was seriously intriguing to me and I wanted to see if I could do it! So, I hired the best coach I could find and I did it.

I competed in my first figure competition in September 2014 after preparing for 6 months to get on stage, and I loved it so much that I signed up for the next local competition in 3 weeks in October. I was officially hooked!

After placing third in both shows I went into an off-season “bulking” period and gained back all the weight I lost plus some. This was a very dark period for me, and I hated it. My relationship with food was NOT the same as it once was, and I was bingeing a few times a week and hating myself for it, wondering what the hell was wrong with me all of the sudden. After about 6 months of this off season, I decided to fix it the only way I knew how to and hopped right back into prep for the 2015 season.

I wanted to work toward earning my professional status in the IFBB, so my coach at the time and I cooked up a game plan and I started preparing for national level shows in January of 2015. It took about 3 months to work out the kinks and really get into “prep mode”, but I ended up competing in my first IFBB qualifier in June 2015 in Chicago at the NPC Jr. Nationals, where I placed nearly dead last. I just was not ready! But, I was still hooked and excited to progress, so I continued to prep for the next one. I then competed in Las Vegas in July at the NPC Jr. USA’s, coming in much more conditioned and placing 8th. Relentless, I continued to prepare for the next in September in Pittsburgh at the IFBB North Americans, where I believe I brought the best conditioning that year, bringing home 7th place. Not ready to stop yet, I continued prepping for another 10 weeks for my last show of the year, and little did I know, my last show ever, in Miami in November 2015 at the NPC Nationals. This was by far my hardest prep as my body was telling me it was done in many ways, I just decided to ignore it. I was SO tired, SO hungry, SO grumpy, my digestion was barely working, my skin was broken out… basically I felt like shit. I got some blood work done that was frighteningly off, but, I ignored it and I pushed through it. At this competition, I brought home 10th place and my leanest physique. The best part of it all was that my now husband asked me to be his wife the night of that show! 😉

Throughout all of the shows I competed at in 2015, I had little moments where the disordered eating would come back and remind me it was there. I would take my cheat meals too far or eat a ton more food when I got home from a cheat meal, or just completely lose it in the middle of the night and eat loads of food barely awake. I knew this wasn’t right and hated it… but I loved the sport and continued to do it as I had my heart on earning my pro card.

Through the holidays in 2015 until February 2016, I reversed my diet and decreased my cardio, gearing up to prep again in 2016 on the national stage. It was at this point my body stopped responding to all of the things I was doing to get leaner and did the complete opposite. I was super puffy from water retention, I still felt exhausted, my digestion was worse than ever, and the most frightening part was that I still hadn’t gotten my cycle back after not having it for 2.5 years. I was starting to binge regularly again, I hated my body (which was in awesome shape!!) and I felt defeated and confused… so I made a doctor’s appointment and that’s when it all changed. (This story is for a different post, which I will do later!)

Although the road of competing took me to a place of darkness & the worst health I’ve ever been in, I am grateful for the experiences. I have gained the best friends from the sport, which is #1. #2 is that competing taught me many things that I will carry with me for a lifetime. I had to learn how to be self motivated, disciplined, precise, persistent, driven, and strong.

If I had to tell my 20 year old self anything looking back, it’d be to really think about how I was doing things, and by things I mean how I was preparing for competition. I would say “don’t go so hard for so long, you might wreck your physical and mental health!” and most importantly I’d say “don’t be afraid to rest”.

Welcome to The Vibrant Life!

Welcome to my site, The Vibrant Life! I am so happy you’ve come to check it out and I really look forward to the future of this blog. I plan to talk about all the things I’m passionate about including good nutrition, recipes, women’s health & hormones, mental health, exercise with an emphasis on CrossFit, and overall wellness!

I strive to help women find their healthiest and happiest life through one-on-one health coaching and would love to help YOU!

Here you can learn more and enquire about my health coaching services.

I hope you enjoy my blog and come back soon!