I've been on my fitness journey for 2 years this month. I started with INSANITY, then moved on to Turbo Fire, Les Mills Pump, T25, and the 21 Day Fix. Prior to starting these programs, believe it or not, I was an AVID gym goer, yet I was still over 200 pounds. I've lost 60 pounds to date. I get questions all the time about my "secrets." Well, if you're lucky enough to land on this page, you're in for a treat...Here it is!
The Compound Effect.
The what, you say? The Compound Effect is an amazing book written by Darren Hardy. Essentially, it discusses the little things that we do everyday, that may seem completely insignificant, and how they affect our lives. I literally recommend this book to EVERYONE WITH A FUNCTIONING BRAIN. That's how good it is. Until I read it, it never occured to me that I was using the compound effect to my advantage. You see, when I started my fitness journey, my goal was just to get back to being comfortable in my own skin. I didn't give a damn about getting healthy and I certainly wasn't going to be giving up my favorite foods. I didn't want "6-pack" abs (still don't!), and I wasn't going to train for a marathon (still not!). I JUST wanted to feel comfortable around other people without having to cover my fat rolls. A funny thing happened, though. As I started to lose the weight, immersed myself in my challenge groups and surrounded myself with healthy people, I really started to THINK about the food that I was putting into my body. I had noticed that the little substitutions that I was making (almond milk for dairy milk, oatmeal and berries instead of a breakfast sandwich), had all started to add up. I started pushing harder in my workouts. Running a little further each time or getting just one more push up in. What had happened, was that while I wasn't looking, I had become fit! I had also become healthy! It's no secret that I now drink Shakeology daily. Over the course of a few months when I first started, I not only had gotten trimmer, but when I went to get my cholesterol retested, my BAD cholesterol had dropped 42 points! THINGS WERE HAPPENING!!! Here's what else I noticed. I started to understand that there was a reason why the people who teased me about my "diet" foods (Shakeology, fruits and veggies) were always complaining about being tired, had to call in sick to work, or just plain looked like crap. Not trying to hate on anyone here, honestly. I totally respect a person's right to do what they want with their own body. But once I had stepped away from that lifestyle (I like to think I was never THAT bad, but still), I realized that those little decisions to stop at the Sonic Drive Thru every morning were the compound effect working AGAINST them. You see, to get in shape, you don't need to make some huge lifestyle change. You really just need to make simple changes and KEEP DOING THEM. That's where the "diet" people get it wrong. A diet ALWAYS has an end date. And that's why they don't see the long term progress. If you just continue to make those positive changes, you will get there. Which is why now, TWO YEARS after I my journey, I'm STILL a work in progress. I don't want to do some drastic juice cleanse or cut out my favorite foods. I just want to continuously work to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That's it. No abs for this girl. That goal may change, but for now I like my nachos too much ;) My point here is that it's really NOT THAT HARD. I promise, and I'll prove it...
Here's my step by step guide to getting healthier and maybe losing a few pounds:
1. Exercise. Get off your ass and get your blood pumping a few times a week.
2. Stop eating like an asshole. Eat healthy, whole, non-processed foods like vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and complex carbs MOST of the time.
That's it. There's no secret trick and those steps really aren't that hard. But they WILL get you results...IF you stick with them. For me, I follow the 80/20 rule. 80% good food, 20% not so good, which means that I do not need to give up my beloved nacho cheese in order to have a body that I LOVE. It's all about TRUE moderation. Oh, moderation...that means eating so-so most of the day and then demolishing a pint of Ben and Jerry's at night, right? No. Not even close. True moderation is eating healthy ALL WEEK, and having ONE or TWO not so great meals during the weekend.
That's it. Honestly. No counting calories. No fad diets. Just eat wholesome foods without a bunch of artificial ingredients and I promise, the weight will gradually come off. Now, for my people who have a significant amount of weight to lose in order to avoid serious health complications, or someone with tons of motivation to get super fit, steps 1 and 2 do not apply to you. You will need a little bit more effort...You will need to follow a serious exercise regimen, focus hard on your nutrition, eating more like 95/5, and have lots of support. For the vast majority though, following a simple nutrition plan and incorporating a workout regimen into our lives is enough to get you to where you want to be. I promise...You just have to do it.
Not quite what you'd expected from a fitness coach, huh? Well, here's the deal. I AM passionate about fitness and I do love to exercise. Well, rather, I love the way I feel when I'm done exercising and I love the results that I get from pushing my body beyond what's comfortable. BUT, and here's a BIG but...I love to eat! And yes, we all know people who say they love to eat and that it's hard for them to be healthy too, but then they get all googly eyed over some avocado and a kale salad and you're like "oh, yeah, you are SOOOO bad". Well, I'm not that guy. I LOVE bad foods. And when I say bad, I don't mean just white carbs or too much fruit after 8pm. I love taco bell nacho cheese. I love fried chicken and biscuits. I even dabble in the occasional McDonald's fries. I love virtually anything that will clog my arteries (gross, I know). I'm probably talking myself out of a job right now, cause anyone in their right mind should be thinking "How in THE HELL is this girl going to help ANYONE?!??!?!!". Well, to be honest, sometimes I wonder the same exact thing, but I have been able to lose 60 pounds and keep (almost all of them...we'll get to that in a minute) off without any tricks or gimmicks and even with my love of disgusting goodness. You see, my fitness journey has not been an easy or quick one. I didn't wake up one day, rid my house of all junk and decide to adopt a 100% clean diet. I have gradually, fumbled my way towards a healthy lifestyle, always loving myself, and trying to constantly get better. About a month ago, I started an AMAZING program, called the 21 day fix. I am SO proud to say that I stuck to it and didn't cheat once. I lost 9 pounds and a few inches all over. On the 22nd day, my husband and I were reunited after being apart 6 weeks. OF COURSE a date night was in order. Then, the following day, we packed up our apartment. OBVIOUSLY we would need to order take out, because all of our dishes were packed. The following day, we loaded up our u-haul. We worked so hard, SURELY we deserved a last meal at our favorite taco place. The next day, we HAD to eat fast food for every meal, and when we rolled into our new town at 11:30 at night, PIZZA WAS A MUST. I think you see where I'm going with this. Here's my problem. I can stick with an exercise program. I can stick with a meal plan. BUT, inevitably, there will always be that time where life gets in the way and you either have a hard time staying committed because of your schedule or circumstances, or you have (excuse my language), a case of the "fuck its". For me, this past week was a little bit of both. BUT, here's my secret weapon. When things like this happen, I don't beat myself up. I remember what I tell my challengers when they have a slip up. Sometimes you make a bad call. Sometimes you go on a bender. But there always comes that point where you have no choice but to be honest with yourself. You look in the mirror and say NO MORE. This moment came for me last night when I was again getting ready to be squired about town by my handsome husband and I had one of those moments I hadn't had in MONTHS. I felt fat in everything I put on. Now, I know I know, I'm beautiful no matter what...blah blah blah. I worked TOO HARD during those 21 days to throw away my results. And I've worked TOO HARD over the past couple of years to take a ride down a shame spiral and just let myself go. So, this morning, I expressed my frustration to my husband, who was also feeling not so hot after our week long binge, and we decided to get back on the fix program. I decided after I finished my first round that I would adopt this program for a LONG time to come while still allowing some flexibility. My goal is to get these few pounds off that I put on over the past week and then use the fix style meals 80% of the time. I know that's a very un-beachbody coachy thing of me to say, because the people who have amazing bodies are the ones who commit to a healthy diet 100% of the time, but for me this is about a LIFESTYLE, not getting a 6 pack. I plan to use the fix as a guide, as it has taught me SO MUCH about proper nutrition, but I also still plan to enjoy my occasional plate of nachos every now and then, without worrying how many blue and yellow containers I've eaten. So, for now, I'm back to portioning out my meals according to color, and am loving every minute of being back on a routine. Every good thing that I eat is a reminder that I LOVE my body and am taking care of it the way that I'm supposed to again.
An issue has come up quite a bit recently among the team that I coach as well as friends and coworkers asking for fitness advice. This is a common misconception, so I'm hoping I can clear up the confusion. Here it is:
CRUNCHES WILL NOT GET RID OF YOUR BELLY FAT!
What? I thought that article that was trending last week about getting the "tummy of your dreams by summer" was going to change my life!!! Welp, sorry. They lied. We see articles like this almost DAILY, so it's no wonder we all think that if we confine ourselves to our room each night and do 1000 crunches we will have a 6 pack like Britney Spears. I have a secret for you. Britney Spears doesn't JUST do crunches. She gets an insane cardio workout from running around on stage several nights a week, and I would venture a guess that despite those Cheetos that she loves so much (who could blame her?), for the most part, she's eating lean meats, fish, and veggies on the daily. Ok, enough about Britney. The point I'm trying to make here is that if you have fat on your midsection, unless you do something to lose the FAT ITSELF (ie cardio, weight training, and a strict diet), all the crunches in the world will not give you a flat belly. That's not to say that you should give up on the ab work completely, though. Even if you can't get rid of those excess fat cells by doing abdominal exercises, they can help to lean out your shape (the fat will still be there, but the area may look more "toned"), and core strength is OH SO important to your general health and fitness. So don't skip your crunches, people!
So what's a guy or gal to do? Here's the crappy part...You have to lose the fat ALL OVER and pray that your genetics help you out. Not the answer you were looking for, huh? Sorry! All bodies are created differently, and we all carry excess fat in different areas. Some of us carry fat in our belly, others carry it in our thighs or buttocks. All you can really do is put in the hard work, stick to a clean diet and blame your problem areas on your ancestors (...jerks). I have lost 60 pounds, and believe it or not, my thighs are STILL just about the same as they were when I started my weight loss journey. Trust me, I measure them! My waist, however, is about 8 inches smaller. So what do I do? Take pride in the fact that I've dropped about 6 dress sizes and can fit into cute dresses; not bash my thighs for their stubborn resistance to my progress. We are all created differently. We can work on our "flaws" or problem areas, and some of us might see real results, but to me, the most important thing to remember is that the goal should be for HEALTH, not fitting into society's standards of beauty. If your goal truly is to have a chiseled 6 pack, then you have to know that you'll need to put in the work and train (and more importantly, eat) like one of the people in the P90X videos. I respect everyone's goals and know that some people strive for that perfect physique. But no matter what your fitness goal, my hope for you is that above all, no matter what the mirror or scale tells you, that you will LOVE YOURSELF THE WAY YOU ARE. I'm not going to use this blog as another soapbox for self love, but I do believe that we have to be happy with ourselves and our progress. If you know you've put in hard work but those last few bits of adipose tissue are just hanging onto your midsection, remember above all else how hard you've worked and how far you've come. Those love handles are still part of your body, and your body is beautiful.
If you've been following my journey, you know that I've been doing the 21 Day Fix program for the past 17 days. As of tomorrow I will have 3 days left, so at this point, I feel like it's an acceptable time to write a review. This program made me nervous at first. I wasn't sure how "restrictive" it would be, but quite honestly, I didn't find it restrictive AT ALL. Yes, you are measuring your portions and eating according to your goals, but that's what you would do when trying to lose weight anyway, and this is FAR from a diet. This program has taught me A LOT about how many of what foods I should be eating per day. What I figured out was that I don't eat NEARLY enough protein, which is extremely important when trying to lose weight, and it was no suprise at all that I was not eating enough veggies either. The other important thing that I realized, is that I spend a lot of time eating just to eat. The first week I had to have an honest talk with myself and realize that I had eaten more than enough to satisfy my body's needs, and that while I wanted to eat, I was not TRULY hungry.
Oh, and did I mention that it comes with seven 30 minute workouts? At first I really didn't think these workouts would challenge me. OH BOY was I wrong! I am on the final week and doing the "doubles" options, and I have not yet been able to get through an entire workout without at least switching to the "modified" moves for a few seconds. These workouts are ones that you can continue to push yourself in even when you get into the best shape of your life.
There really is no way to explain how much this program has impacted me, and although I DO plan to have nice meal during date night with my husband once I'm finished, I think that I will probably continue to use this program for a long time to come. If you're trying to lose weight and get healthy, and if you are even THINKING that you might not be eating the right portions, you HAVE to try this program. I promise you that if you give it your all, it will change your life. I have done TONS of beachbody programs, and I of course have my favorites, but this program is something that EVERYONE can (and should) do. It's just that good. I hope you've enjoyed my review. Final results will be up Saturday morning!
Hi! I'm Andrea Cummings. I am passionate about living a healthy lifestyle that I can MAINTAIN and that still lets me feel like I'm not being deprived. I like to exercise, but I also love to eat (nachos!). My main focus is to be healthy, not skinny, and to help others do the same! I love Jesus, but I also say fuck a lot, so if you're offended, I may not be the gal for you.