Hello to all my new Quora subscribers!
First off, thanks so much for joining the Inertia Project!!
As a thank you I want to address some of the more frequently asked questions on the Quora thread in this post and go more in depth on a few of them.
So, without further ado, here are my answers to the most common questions I received:
Q: Can you get these kinds of results without going to extremes with diet and exercise? Are you allowed to eat food that just taste good on occasions and go out to a nice restaurant and have a good meal with some wine?
A: There are two options, both with benefits and drawbacks. I've done both ways and will interject my personal experiences at the end:
1. You are super careful and strict - This doesn't mean that your food is bland (omg I am the queen of spices, and my boyfriend loves it when I cook!), it just means that you measure and weigh everything. You pay close attention to your macronutrient ratios (the ratio of protein, fats, and carbohydrates in food) and don't eat just anything that comes across your plate. You are extremely consistent and limit cheats to very infrequently or never.
The benefit to this approach is you will lose weight faster. You'll be able to see daily/weekly progress and know that this is working. After a while your cravings for sweets goes away and the diet becomes easier.
The drawback to this is that you tend to be limited socially. Friends may invite you out for drinks but you don't drink. You don't indulge in a second helping at dinner. Friday lunch at your favorite burger joint? Probably not.
2. You aren't as strict and allow cheats - This is generally how people start out. You are strict for a period of time and have cheat meals, or you allow yourself to have cheat treats here and there. If you’ve ever seen someone say “I lost 40 lbs and ate this entire pizza” you know they are using cheat meals (and not drawing attention to the 6 other days a week where they are eating well).
The benefit to this is that your social life is better and you can still sometimes eat your favorite foods. It's easier for you to say yes to friends and family at gatherings.
The drawback to this is that you won't see progress as quickly and one cheat meal / day often spirals out of control and lasts longer than you intended, so you feel guilty. Your cravings don't really go away and it gets hard at the end because you want what you can't have. Since your progress isn't as fast, you might become unmotivated and quit.
So, as I said in the beginning, I do both - While I’m preparing for a Figure competition, I am super strict. I'm going to be up on stage in a tiny bikini and everything that I put in my mouth will show up under the lights, so I have a lot of motivation to stay strong!
However, when I'm not preparing for a show, you better believe I eat pizza and have a few beers with my wine. But I've practiced it and know how my body reacts when I have that type of food so when I gain 4 lbs overnight (yes, that HAS happened), I know that it's probably bloat from my cheat meal and will be gone in a few days, no need to fret.
My I'd also like to point out that my "now" picture is 10 lbs heavier than my stage weight. I let myself have cheat treats and meals. So yes, that body is achievable with cheats and treats (candy and ice cream and burgers, oh my!). However, I have had enough time eating like I do to know when I can have cheats, and when I should lay off them.
So it all just depends on what trade-offs YOU are willing to live with; and one answer is not “better” than another.
Q: It only took you one year to look like that?!
A: Yes, it was just one year. But I was very determined to reach my goals!
When I started my journey, my only goal was to compete in a figure competition. I started out at a high weight and knew it would take me that long to whittle down to where I needed to be to compete with the fittest competitors. It was not easy and I went through my struggles – weight plateaus, not seeing results, being confused about all the different diet and nutrition information out there, having people make weird remarks to me (it’s amazing how people make remarks about my body shape TO MY FACE - positive AND negative), not feeling like I “fit in” in the weight room because I wasn’t a protein-shake guzzling dude – but I knew that I had to overcome those fears to make it onto the stage.
To be honest, shaping the body wasn’t the hard part - it was shaping my mind.
I had to learn how to mentally prepare for my workouts so I could produce visible results. I had to learn what “hard work” REALLY meant. I had to learn how to control my thoughts so I wouldn’t freak out and get overwhelmed. I had to learn how to make achievable goals so I wouldn’t get frustrated and quit.
I'm sure if you work hard at one of your goals, break it into small chunks, and make at least one step forward each day, you'd be amazed at what you can do. It's completely achievable. And that's why I'm excited you're here, so we can help you make goals and then totally surpass them!
Q: Were you unhealthy in the before photo?
A: I was overweight. I don't look like it because I'm super tall but I was carrying more weight than I should have.
On the left, I was the heaviest I’d ever been (around 187 at 5’10”) – I don’t actually know the exact weight because I was too self-conscious to step on the scale (in my own home!). I dreaded seeing the numbers go up and felt like if I weighed in heavier, I wasn’t good enough.
But more than that, I also just felt bad. I had always been active but I wasn't as confident in a bikini during summer. I didn't like the way my legs rubbed together when I walked. I kept having to go up ANOTHER notch on my belt. I felt embarrassed in my own body and knew that I had to make a change.
To be honest, my mental change was more drastic than my physical change. I went from being self-conscious (you see that look on my face in the "before"? I DIDN'T WANT TO TAKE THE PICTURE AT ALL!!!) to feeling confident and self-assured. I deal with anxiety and stress better. And I learned how to respect myself. I am more proud of my mindset shift than the physical transformation.
Q: Have you tried low carb/paleo diets along with your workouts? Any feedback on those?
A: No, I did not do a low carb diet. Carbs are the best energy source for your muscles, and I lift weights a lot, so I need enough energy to do my workouts.
There are a lot of diets out there and low carb diets are popular right now. But to properly fuel your body, carbs are necessary. You can get good results with low carb diets initially, but you'll eventually stall out and the workouts will suffer. Carbs aren't evil, they are just misunderstood.
Q: It’s all a camera trick! She is just standing further back in the second pic! ;)
A: Lol yeah, that and the Photoshop! Haha just kidding :)
Q: Can you comment on how your sleeping habits were? Before and after if any? I'm so busy with life and work that I don't get much sleep.
A: Yes, sleep is definitely an important part in losing weight. I found that when I got more sleep, the weight loss seemed easier. I noticed the morning after a good sleep, my body felt tighter. Sleep helps your body repair, restore energy, and (my favorite) it makes breakfast come faster.
Q: I am also a person who is currently doing a lot of cardio and almost no weights. I have a lot of belly fat. I don't understand how can lifting weights burn belly and ass fat.
A: Yes, I'll admit that it seems counter-intuitive. And I want to stress that it's not just lifting alone, it's paying attention to diet.
But to answer your question, here's a really brief overview of the benefits of cardio vs. weights:
Cardio, Pros: You burn lots of calories in a little bit of time. It doesn't require much, or any, equipment (think of running). You don't have to be trained to do it.
Cardio, Cons: After you stop working out, you don't continue burning calories. A lot of people overestimate how much they burn and then eat a lot, and then they don’t lose weight. Cardio doesn't shape or build muscle.
Weights, Pros: You build and shape your muscles by targeting specific body parts. You continue to burn calories after you're done working out. You can be in and out of the gym faster and there are more things to do. Compound movements (movements that use a lot of body parts, like a squat) burn more calories than isolation exercises (movements that use single body parts, like a bicep curl).
Weights, Cons: Though you can get effective workouts using bodyweight exercises, you generally need equipment. You need to know how to lift weights safely so you don’t get injured.
A mix of cardio and lifting will get you good results. But if you're looking specifically for fat loss, weights are a really good option because you keep burning calories afterward. When you do that, you lose fat.
Q: Could you tell us about your workout, when do you exercise every day? And what type of exercise do you use?
A: I usually work out 5 times per week for about 40-50 minutes. I mostly lift weights and follow bodybuilding-style workouts. I don't do that much cardio any more. I do a lot of compound movements that use a lot of large muscle groups (which is why I don’t need to spend two hours in the gym 7 days a week - Never, ever. I have a life too, you know).
I usually work out in the evenings on weekdays and in the morning on weekends because that is what fits best with my life, but it doesn't really matter when you exercise.
If you're looking to build muscle tone fast, heavier weights are the way to do it.
And don't get scared you'll get bulky!! In the “before” picture, I was size 10-12 and lifted occasionally. When I started lifting more and eating right, I went down several pant sizes - I'm a size 4-6 now. Lifting made me smaller!
Here’s a sample of the types of workouts I do and how I break them down. I usually follow some sort of push / leg / pull split (and then repeat). Here are some exercises to give you some ideas of what I do:
Push Motion: Pushup, Bench Press, Chest Fly, Dips, Incline Bench Press, Push Press, Military Press, Dumbbell Press, Arnold Press, Shoulder Raises
Leg Motion: Squat, Lunges, Leg Press, Hip Thrusts, Glute Bridges, Leg Extensions, Hamstring Curls
Pull Motion: Bent Over Row, Deadlift, Seated Row, Lat Pulldown, Pull Up, Single Arm Rows
Q: I know that your diet was customized for you specifically but I was wondering what you might eat on a typical day?
A: I'd love to share my eating habits! I worked with a company called Renaissance Periodization to really nail down my diet. They are FANTASTIC and I highly recommend them. If you're interested, send me an email and I can give you a discount code.
First off, watching your diet doesn't mean depriving yourself of all joy for being alive. Or that you're automatically confined to chicken and rice and broccoli for the rest of your human existence. Eating healthy foods instead of microwaving Lean Cuisine every night for dinner didn’t take that much more effort and I noticed a huge difference. I actually felt fuller because I prioritized healthy foods that fueled me for longer.
Here's a (non-comprehensive, but extremely accurate) list of the types of foods I eat:
● Healthy carbs - Contrary to the fads, carbs aren't the devil. They are the most efficient energy source for your body and keep you moving throughout the day. I ate sweet potatoes, oatmeal, rice, pasta, quinoa, and fruits to keep up my energy levels.
● Lean meats - Protein is great for keeping muscles repaired. I eat chicken, lean beef, steak, turkey, eggs, seafood, and greek yogurt.
● Vegetables - Basically, anything and everything :)
● Healthy fats - These are probably my favorite but it's easy to overdo them! I choose avocados, nuts, nut butters (might have a slight peanut butter addiction), and olive oil.
● Spices - Even though the list above is full of good stuff, it's easy to think "wow that sounds so boring / restrictive / bland / whatever". THAT'S TOTALLY NOT THE CASE!! Use spices and blends to make things tasty. My personal favorites are fennel, rosemary, lemon, sage, thyme, ginger, chili powder, cumin, pepper, savory, lavender, and garlic (pro tip: you might not want to include all these at once). I also like to "cheat" and get spice blends at grocery stores that are already pre-mixed.
Of course, I like to have treats here and there (think: everything), just like everyone else. I just plan for them and try not to go overboard.
Q: What do you think about a glass of red wine every other night or so? And what about bread?
A: Here's my take on wine and bread:
Bread: This is fine, and delicious. Of course, watch portion sizes but I consider whole wheat bread in the "healthy carbs" category. I just don't eat much bread, so I forgot to include it above.
Red Wine: If you're looking to lose weight, I'd say to be careful about alcohol intake because 1. your body processes it differently and it can be harder to lose weight 2. in general, drinking leads to food indulgences (let's be real, Taco Bell runs and late night pizzas generally sound like a great idea only after a few beers!) and 3. it's not an essential nutrient like protein, fats, or carbs for your body to have to stay healthy.
If you're ok with your weight, go for it! I'm preparing for a figure competition right now so I am not drinking, but I have my eye on a few lovely reds from Oregon that I'll have once I'm done.
[This isn’t a question, but this is probably one of my more favorite comments that I think bears repeating. I love how this gentleman took the time to dig into the deeper aspect of aesthetics and how we interpret it. I thought a LOT about it and it is in line with my feelings, and I want to share it again here:]
Q: I caution young people, especially young women, do not let society or your peers impose upon you a vision of physical perfection that becomes a vehicle for terrible self-criticism and judgment. You are so much more than your abs! Be happy, be fit, eat well, but don't follow a sad path followed by too many young women and men. Skinny, beauty and healthy are not moral issues.
A: Beautifully said. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Beauty is self-confidence, and vice versa.
And so we’ve come to the end of my Quora Q&A!
Again, thank you so much for being a part of the Inertia Project. My transformation was dramatic but is very achievable for every single one of you and I’m so excited to help you get there!!
Ok, now it’s your turn to talk! What’s your biggest struggle in the gym? Time? Huge dudes taking selfies and crowding the bench press? Looking at the weights and having your “perfect workout” plans escape your brain as you totally go blank?
Leave a comment below and I’ll respond with my best tips to get over your insecurities.