Friday, May 31, 2013

Dysmorphic Body Image

by Kris Pitcher

"Is this yours?" he asked me as he struggled to put on a fleece vest he'd pulled from the closet. He could hardly get his arms through the holes and it was tight across his back. I'm not sure if he could zip it closed. "No," I said, "it's yours." His eyes met mine with distrust. "Are you sure?" he quizzed me.

His clothes don't fit. His shoes are too small. Jackets, pants, they don't fit. Forget about the suit he got married in. He actually did give that up a few years ago. Yet as he continues to grow each year, the man he sees in the mirror is small.

He has bigorexia. Body dysmorphia. In all fairness none of us see what others see when we look at ourselves in the mirror. But those of us on the quest for muscularity often have this dysmorphic view on a whole different level.

Part of it is the changes we make in our physique are slow, and we see ourselves every day. Heck, we don't even have a full length mirror in our house. Dangerous!

We also don't believe we are making the progress those around us outwardly see. We develop this unrealistic, or dysmorphic, disconnected vision of what we look like. It's the same as the anorexic thinking they look fat. The muscular person thinks they look small. They have an image of an age or time of their lives stuck in their head.

In a sport which is hypersensitive to our physicality, it's no wonder we develop this. We hone in on this part, and that part, working to bring one up and round out another. Our focus is constantly fine tuning and also putting on more size. More. More. More.

We look to the mass monsters as our mentors, our role models who have shaped us figuratively and literally as we've followed their protocols. Some of us will have the genetic potential to do a fairly decent job, others will chase dreams. And most of us fall some place in the middle ground.

All the while, we'll struggle with our body image. "Dude! You look FULL!" You might hear. And the response will be, "But I feel SO flat..."

Dysmorphic. An unrealistic view of what someone is actually seeing. And this is where it's smart to have your own coach or advisor you trust to keep you on track. People who will tell you the truth. Someone who can see you objectively.

We all manage body image issues. Being aware of what your triggers are is important. If what people are telling you isn't matching the self talk in your head, you may have dysmorphic tendencies.

Keeping your head clear by focusing on your values and trusting your objective advocates is  important to quieting that negative, or dysmorphic, self talk. It also may be a good idea to write your name in the label of your fleece vest?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Broccoli Values

by Kris Pitcher

My husband posted on social media a photo of a bag of frozen broccoli, the store brand called "broccoli cuts". In his witty way, he mentioned it's how I've gotten so cut...broccoli cuts.

Ba dum bum! Well, I think it's funny. The funny part is, people took it seriously. What specific kind of broccoli? As if it were some magic supplement. It's just frozen broccoli!

Then came the concerns over whether or not it was "organic"... And while we've had these discussions over the course of time, I thought this sparked the need to have another one.

Nutrition is about values. The choices we make are what I would call "value laden" choices. Meaning, they are determined by what we think is important, individually.

Just like religion, or sex...what I choose for myself isn't necessarily the correct or right choice for you and vice versa. We are each equally validated in our values around food choices. Our choices may be based on beliefs we've grown up with, or developed over time.

I don't eat soy or soy products. That doesn't mean I expect the world to join me, or I feel it's the choice everyone should make along with me. It's a choice I make for myself. I also don't eat dairy. Gasp!

But don't stress about my calcium intake, just look at all that broccoli I love to eat! My point is, we make choices about nutrition based on values. Our personal values.

One of those is whether we purchase organic produce. I've had the good fortune to listen to university professors speak about organic farming, which is very interesting. Here's what the USDA has to say about the purposes of organic farming:

"U.S. producers are turning to certified organic farming systems as a potential way to lower input costs, decrease reliance on nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets and premium prices, and boost farm income. Organic farming systems rely on ecologically based practices such as cultural and biological pest management, exclusion of all synthetic chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones in crop and livestock production."

Standardizing what it means to call a product organic has meant as consumers we can be assured specific qualities in a product. This is great for the consumer. And I think biological pest management is smart. Whether you buy organic produce is a choice I'll leave up to you. Visit the usda web site for lots of information and fact sheets.

So, are my broccoli cuts organic? No, they are not. I've shared why I buy frozen vegetables - picked and packed at peak freshness/nutrient value, already washed, cut, easy to portion out...and they never go bad in my crisper drawer.

With the amount of food prep that goes on in our household, this is a convenience, and cost (I am aware I could purchase organic frozen veggies), choice for me. I also have my ideas about who is benefited from organic farming. And now you know my broccoli values. *smile

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Post Contest Blues

by Kris Pitcher

You achieved the best shape of your life, you met your goals, you made it to the stage! You competed in your show, whether it was your first or your did it! It was like climbing a mountain. Slow going, grueling, and you swore along the way you would make it to the top.

Your family was proud, your pictures turned out fantastic. You look at them and you can't quite believe it's you. It seems like it all happened so fast now that it's over. It's over. You were so high, but now, you feel low. You feel blue.

Post contest blues are "normal". Any time you reach a monumental goal there is some let down once you are finally done. Managing around that is difficult. But you certainly can do it. It starts with recognizing your feelings.

It's kind of like mourning a loss. You've lost the attention (like it or not) of people asking you about your contest. You've lost being the best looking person in your gym. You've lost your lean, cut look. You've lost your goal. You are no longer working toward something. It's ok to feel sad about loss.

You may have also not planned what's next. So, you literally are lost. Loss and lost. Two bad sisters. The loss will dwindle. You know you can't keep that body. That body is a one day deal. You peak for your show. We don't get to keep our contest condition. It doesn't work like that.

Don't be sad about that any more. Be realistic about it. Now is the time to move on and grow. Eat more good clean food and grow like a weed! Let that one go. Cover up. You don't have to wear tank tops and booty shorts to work out.

Put your body under cover. It's ok not to be the center of attention. People won't even notice the changes. They still think you look amazing. Now as far as you feeling lost...

You need to get your plan together. Get right back at it. Get in the gym, get with your coach, and get your plan together. Then put it in action. When we are mourning what is over, we need to look ahead.

Blues be gone! Those sad sisters of loss and lost can get lost because you don't need them any longer. You are on to the next goal. Whether it's growing your shoulders, your back width, the sweep of your thighs, bringing in your rear...what ever your goal, get going!

Post contest blues are compounded by eating sugar, carbs and drinking alcohol. All of these are things your body isn't used to, your brain isn't used to them either. They are setting you up on a chemical roller coaster of mood swings. Get this under control and control your mood. Seriously!!!

I cannot stress that enough. If you are feeling at all blue after your show, get your eating cleaned up. You don't need the stress of a chemical whirlwind of mood busting nonsense going on. Clean. It. Up. You've had some treats, now let's get going toward our next goal.

It's normal to feel blue after your show. You can get over it just as soon as you decide to. Help yourself out by cleaning up your diet and by visiting your coach. Let's get you on track to your next big challenge!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Asparagus Makes My Poop Black

by Kris Pitcher

This will be a "too much information" blog. So, feel free to either pull your chair up, or push it away. Either we go. You've been warned.

Last week leading up to our local bodybuilding competition in which my husband had MANY competitors, we did a test run to see what I'm looking like. I was able to schedule a photo shoot with a local photographer who is usually very unavailable.

A great opportunity! It was one I couldn't pass up. It also afforded me the opportunity to take my body through a "water drop" to see what we're dealing with here. In preparation, I loaded up on locally grown asparagus. I got myself a 20 pound box!

Some I froze for later, and some I prepped for my week. I ate a combination of vegetables the beginning of the week. But at the end of the only veggie was asparagus.

Now, I love asparagus. You and I both know it makes your pee smell funny. But I'd never eaten enough of it to find this out.

It made my poop black. Black I tell you. Be grossed out, but I know you look at your poop too. If you don't you are a liar, and you don't know what's going on in your body. You are a machine you know!

At just 20 calories per 1/2 cup asparagus is virtually nothing. But in that nothing there is a lot. It has virtually no salt, which makes it great for the last few days of prep, it is high in fiber, in folate and acts as a natural diuretic.

It is also high in vitamins K, A, C, E and in selenium, copper, and zinc. And here's the kicker... high in iron. Iron is the culprit. The black poop maker.

Same thing happens when I eat my weight in sushi wrapped in seaweed - also high in iron. Hey? You need to know what's going on in there!

Here's one thing I learned, asparagus contains insulin which promotes our digestive health by helping the good bacteria in our intestines grow. This is partly why it goes through us quickly. I love the stuff.

I've got some in the freezer for shows coming up. And boy we ate a lot of it. There's nothing like getting it fresh from the farm. Now you know...why what's in the bowl, is black. Iron. Take a look.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cheating Spouses and Dieting

by Kris Pitcher

I'm thinking your spouse wouldn't have it if you "kind of" cheated on them. From experience, I can tell you...I'm having none of it. In fact, don't even think about it. That alone will get you the boot. Just ask the first guy.

You can't be "kind of" pregnant either. You either are pregnant, or you aren't. There is no wiggle room in conception. Although there is a lot of...well let's stay on track here.

While there are areas in our lives where we may make indiscretions and have an opportunity to right our wrongs, our diet is not one of them. If we speed and get a traffic ticket we can pay the fine, go to traffic school and spend time on probation.

We've righted that wrong. We can't however make up for bad choices with our nutrition. Further and to my point, if you have a plan - follow it. If you are not following it, you aren't doing your plan.

You can't "kind of" follow your plan. We've had this conceptual discussion before. Yet for some, it remains conceptual. It's not. This is practical. In order for your plan to work, meaning for you to see results, you must follow your plan.

Read that part again. To see results, you have to follow the plan. To the letter. That means you weigh and measure the items on your plan. It means you do not add, or take away items. See?

When you struggle and ask your coach to fix it, and they make a change to your plan and still nothing. Remember what they do? They go into conference with their colleagues about you. But the problem isn't your coach.

The problem is you. You are not following your plan. You are "kind of" following it. That means you are cheating on it. You might as well join the starter husbands of the world who thought about cheating on the likes of strong minded ladies.

We are having none of it. Don't even think about it. You are not fooling anyone. We know you are not doing your plan. Extra bites here, and a heaping measure there...not the plan. Skipping a meal, also not the plan.

These dietary indiscretions are not like a parking ticket. You can't undo them with 20 minutes of extra cardio. Less isn't more, you need to eat all your food. And we just wish you would do your plan 100% so we could see the results.

And we're "kind of" sick of you passing the blame to the coach because you are not being successful. Get out of your own way here. Seriously, do your plan. Stop monkeying around with extras and cheating and skipping and this and that.

No you may not skip cardio because you're tired. Too bad you didn't plan ahead and pack your meals. Guess what? This takes commitment and planning. You need to get organized and get it together. Stop the "kind of".

If you can adopt the attitude that you are either doing it or you're not, you'll drop the diet indiscretions. You'll also find success. Stop fooling around and commit to yourself. You deserve more than "kind of".

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Five Percent

by Kris Pitcher

For those wanting to make lasting, lifestyle changes, there are a lot of components to focus on. It is challenging at best to know just where to put your focus. Especially in a multi-billion dollar industry where marketing is pulling at your heart strings.

It's human nature to look for the easy way. Believe me, if there was a magic pill, I'd sit on the couch eating bowls of Cap-N-Crunch cereal with peanut butter toast and never work out. But there is no magic pill. And Cap-N-Crunch cuts the roof of my mouth.

It also gives me a great big giant butt. The point is, there is no easy way. There is focus and attention to your goals. Finding the right information to pay attention to is tricky. What we do know, is the basics work.

What are the basics? Good solid, clean, nutrition. Cutting out the sugar, the fast food, the calories from beverages. We know eating lean meats, "good" fats, and complex carbohydrates in moderation are key.

We know that cardiovascular exercise is critical for burning fat, and building muscle through strength training is essential. This is where we should place our focus. These components of diet and exercise will drive us right to our goal.

But then we see a flash of something shiny. A glittery sparkle of something that catches our eye. A  shake, something special, a pill, a fatburner, some kind of product that is going to help us get there faster.

We think we might be able to make shortcuts if we just take this magic thing. We assume everyone around us experiencing success must also have this "thing". Guess what, they are just doing the work.

Supplements only "supplement" a strong and solid foundation. They don't do the work for you. I don't take a pre-workout drink full of stimulants because I workout in the evening. I would be up all night writing blogs and you'd have to read 6 each day.

I don't need that. I'm making gains because I am eating my food. I don't need an intra-workout shake. Those carbs and calories don't fit into my macros, and because of the structure of my plan - I'm not in the gym for more than 45 minutes. And you shouldn't be either.

My point is, I am not focused on the 5% that might give me a "leg up", the supplements. I am focused on the 95% that will ensure my success. I am focused on the food, the nutrition, the exercise, the rest and recovery.

Are you all wrapped up in the magic powders and pills, when you take this, and at what exact moment you take that? Or are you focusing on the bigger picture? If you're skipping out on the 95% you are kind of missing out.

You must build the strong foundation before those things will make any difference. Supplements have their place in our plans. But they are simply there to enhance the solid work we are doing correctly, they aren't there to fix bad habits. Five percent, or 95%? You decide.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Gummy Vitamins

by Kris Pitcher

There is a new wave of marketing targeting women specifically. I thought we should sit down and talk about gummy vitamins. I will preface this conversation by saying a multi vitamin is a good insurance policy.

Gummy vitamins for adults, however, are candy. Be a grown up and take your vitamin pill without added ingredients. You don't need to chew it, you don't need a "treat". You don't need "candy". The end.

Now that we've had that important talk, and we can just go ahead and lump calcium chocolate chews right in the same bucket...we can talk about something really important.

My $10 no light gel polish, which was a BIG investment for me, is still on my toes after a FULL week. This is a miracle. I may just make it through sandal season after all!

Think twice before you get swooped up by marketing. You are an adult, you don't need candy supplements. Would you smoke candy cigarettes?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What Kind of Winner?

by Kris Pitcher

As the competition season is in FULL swing, I pose the question - what kind of winner will you be? It might seem like a strange thing to think about but there are reasons I ask.

When I began competing, six years ago (gasp?) my goal was to not have my suit fall off during prejudging. Once I met that goal, my next goal was to get through my posing routine without any serious mishaps, Janet Jackson moments, if you know what I mean.

I didn't think about winning first place. I didn't go thinking I might be the best person on stage, or that the judges would recognize how hard I had worked to get there. As a beginner, my goal was to get there.

What I knew was, each competitor would have worked just as hard as I. I knew there would be women with much greater experience competing. I recognized it as my starting point and I understood I had a long way to go.

I carry that same sense of humility to the stage with each competition I enter. There will be women with much more experience, with better genetics, stronger physiques, better shape and so on. I am just one person who will stand in a line up of many who have worked just as hard. Some harder.

Only one person will take first place. Only five will carry home a trophy, just 10 "place" at all. The rest go home with their hard work and their dirty feet and we all must decide...what kind of winner will I be?

Making this decision before we step on stage is a matter of determining where we are in our own journey. Is this contest the end point? Or is it really part of a much larger cycle?

I like to think of it as the beginning point. It's the starting point for making gains and for working on the things we'd like to improve upon. It's the starting point for being at a great place with our composition and being able to manage where we go from there.

It's the starting place for "what's next?" which is a big question. Where will you take your competition next? Where will you take your physique? Do you keep working and select another show to compete in?

Or do you go off the rails and rebound terribly? The decision depends on what kind of winner you are. Or do you see yourself as a loser? Do you see yourself as having been robbed of a placing? Did the judges not recognize how far you came on your journey to get there?

It's not a short story contest. It's a physique competition where the judges look at you against the people in the line up next to you. You stand with other beginners, and with very experienced athletes.

You stand with the person who stayed tight off season and the one who let their body fat skyrocket, along with the person who lost 75 or 100 pounds to get to the stage. The back-story doesn't get told, the judges see what they see and place you where they place you.  

Reminding ourselves of that means we take our own pulse, inventory our own story, we put our own journey into perspective, decide what is next for us, and walk with pride and humility regardless of the outcome. We have each already won. And the question to ponder is, what kind of winner will you be?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cranky Competitor!

by Kris Pitcher

You know the saying, "It's not you, it's me."? I've been thinking a lot about that lately. On a recent multiple hour car trip with my boss, he asked me about my contest and when I was going to "get all cranky".

I laughed and told him I wasn't going to get cranky at all, that I manage myself very well. Then I had a serious crabby spell. And I it me? Or, is it you?

I'm running into a special kind of stupid lately. People who ask really not smart questions about things that are so obvious I could poke my own eyes out. Is that me?

We may have been having a discussion about something for several weeks as I lead you up to an event or deadline. Then all of a sudden, it's like we're having the conversation for the very first time. Who was I in discussions with all this time? All that consensus we'd come to that now you don't recall...what is that about?

Again, me? Or you? Now I am reconsidering my statement. Am I cranky? Has my patience run thin at the six week mark? Or do I need to communicate more directly?

Before I decide that yes I am a crabby cranky competitor, or that you are special in ways I'm not equipped to diagnose...I will start with a few simple things.

Close in the circle. This can be difficult to do with work. But where it's possible, plan your projects, your travel, your meetings, or, just do your work. Skip the coffee clutch, the lunch loungers and water cooler drama. Keep things simple.

No one will notice if you don't bring something to the work pot-luck. There's usually plenty. Simplify where you can. Just do your work.

Simplify with social obligations as well. This is the time for you to focus your energy on your goals. You don't have time or extra energy to be planning neighborhood garage sales, going out dancing so you can be the designated driver, or playing 18 holes of golf on Sunday.

Rest. Get adequate sleep. When you are dieting for competition there are obligations you cannot give up. You have responsibilities. You are underfed, and over worked. You need all the rest you can get. If you need to hire out the yard work for a month - do it.

Choose your attitude. This is where my check comes in. We choose this sport. I remind people of this all the time. We're not all going to be pros. The top 1% will make it. For the rest of us, this is a lifestyle and a hobby.

As such, keep perspective with your family, your partner, your boss and yourself. Put a smile on and remember that even though it's hard, you've chosen it. So, as I get the same question again from someone I have already reached consensus with...I will take a deep breath, smile inside and have the conversation again.

When will I get cranky? I won't. Am I going to be crabby? Not this prep. Can I manage everything? Yes, and so can you with help and reminders. And support. Thank you for yours *smile! 

Friday, May 3, 2013

How to Get a Flat Belly

by Kris Pitcher

Tea has lots of soothing benefits. Did you know that you can flatten your belly drinking tea? Put the kettle on and make yourself a cup!

Like most fruits and vegetables, tea contains polyphenols, or catechins. While there are lots of ideas about these structures and how they effect's important to point out most go unproven.

It's thought, however, that polyphenols act to aid in digestion. This is a nice benefit of a warm cup of tea. These catechins are also thought to be responsible for the fat burning effect in green tea. BINGO!

A little bump in natural digestion, an increase in metabolism, and before you know it your tea is helping you burn fat. There just might be something to this? You could be flattening out that belly with a cup of tea!

Couple that cup with some good clean eating and a solid exercise program and you are on your way to a flatter belly in no time. Will the tea do it alone? Probably not. But when you add good habits together, they compound.

A healthy lifestyle takes a multitude of things happening all at once to get results. And if drinking a cup of tea can help...pour me a cup! Ahhh! Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Late Night BINGE!

by Kris Pitcher

It happened Sunday night. Crammed in a tiny, hot, cafe on a busy city street in the middle of San Francisco's China Town we were surrounded by smells and sounds lifting me to another place. We found seats at a packed table and the plates started coming around.

Dialects I couldn't understand were being spoken all around me as I filled my plate and began to eat. Then the loaves of crusty French bread came by. The sweet smell made my mouth water and I could almost feel the crunch of the crust as the platter passed by.

Taking one of the baguettes, I looked for fillings. Piles of greens, cilantro, and then came the meats. Thinly sliced and fanned out on a platter so big it could hardly be passed amongst the people sitting at the table. And while no common language was being shared there was an understanding unspoken.

There was laughing, drinking, funny faces, belching, eating, and more eating. Dishes of rice noodles slippery in oyster sauce passed by, meats undetectable yet deliciously spiced, and vegetables so fresh their color was a brilliance not seen anywhere else.

Entire fish displayed on plates with eyes and all. Stacks of spring rolls so delicately and beautifully filled were partnered with spicy peanut sauce. All these and more kept coming and coming.

We sat and ate until we could not eat another bite, in this tiny cafe, surrounded by people we looked nothing like, brought together by platters of food I could not believe I was eating...

And then I woke up. The dreams are coming. The food dreams. They are so real I can smell them and taste them. They are so real I am satisfied when I wake. Diet dreams.

Sweat covered, oddly, I wasn't panic stricken when I woke. I was happy. This dream pretty much represents the perfect meal. One shared with my husband in a unique place. A meal in a tucked away restaurant filled with locals. A meal I'm not quite sure what it is...

This is the point in the diet at which things get difficult. It's time to dig deeper. It's time to focus harder. And it might just be time to allow the dreams to creep in and take me away in my slumber for an occasional late night binge.