Transformation Challenge

Leaving Depression Behind and How to Love the Skin You’re In

I used to joke about always being in shape. I’d say, “I’m in shape, round is a shape!” I would laugh for a few seconds then the manufactured joy would cease and I’d immediately feel bad or guilty for the state of my health and my out of shape body. I haven’t always been self-conscious about my body, the self criticism and loathing didn’t start until after I had put on nearly fifty pounds over the course of 6 years. It seemed like I just woke up one day with all this extra weight. I guess I’m the type that “carries it well”. In reality, I think what happened was that I was so distracted by my depression that I couldn’t see what was really going on, and since I was in such a fragile state, no one close to me was about to suggest that I may be getting a little bit chubby. Maybe someone should have made me go run around the block a few times, exercise causes the release of endorphins and serotonin, thus making you feel happier and making you less depressed. There are countless case studies and success stories of people curing their depression with the help of exercise. I hope that knowing what I know now about the positive effects of exercise on depression I can help somebody through their tough time. Here’s the funny thing about depression, you may think you’re out of the woods, but something like realizing you’ve gained a bunch of weight while in your depressed state can put you right back in that depressed state. Now, more than ever, you need to be strong so you can make an action plan.

I’ve recently read a few articles of women who would be classified as in “extremely good shape” and their “backward transformations”. What these women chose to do was to evaluate the way they were living their lives and decide if what they were doing was making them happy. One woman, who was a competition bodybuilder, decided that her overly strict diet and workout program were making her miserable, and causing her to believe that she would never be good enough. Her “healthy” lifestyle was making her very emotionally unhealthy. So she decided to take it down a notch and enjoy some freedom in her life and soon became much happier. She chose to love the skin she was in, knowing that she was in control. The secret to loving your body through thick and thin (no pun intended) is to know that you have the power to change what you don’t like. There is no magic pill, or crash diet that will save you from the true dedication needed to change your body. Once you set your goal, make a list of milestones so you can evaluate your progress. When you reach the milestones, make sure to recognize how all your hard work paid off, and remember your goals as to help motivate you to push on. Look at your accomplishments and say well done, and if there’s still work to be done get to it. Also, recognize that it’s not just your body that makes you beautiful/handsome, valuable, intelligent, funny, worthwhile. Love it in all stages and be thankful for what it does right, you know like breathe on its own. Get rid of the negative and unrealistic influences in your life, one of my friends shared a funny article about the impossibility of wearing a Victoria’s Secret swim suit if you are a mom. You can read it here, then quickly use your VS catalogs as campfire starter.

I challenge all of you to be nice to yourself this week. Write a positive note to yourself on your bathroom mirror so it’s the first thing you see in the morning. Tell yourself you’re wonderful, and your hard work is paying off. See if you don’t start smiling from the inside and find new motivation to conquer your goals.


30 Day Activity Challenge

Hello loyal followers! I’ve been busy the last couple of weeks finishing up finals and projects for my first semester as a graduate student. Woo-hoo, I’m glad to report all went well, and I am still alive, and as inspired as ever to continue my transformation! Every once in a while it is good to step back, evaluate, and adjust your goals, or the route by which you wish to achieve them. My results after evaluating my original goals were this:

  • I still want to continue my original goal of total body transformation and hope to see major results by the end of the summer.
  • I am going to take a break from waking up at 5:30 am to go to boot camp classes
  • I am going to continue a mostly paleo diet
  • I am going to start preparing for my first 5k, The Color Run on June 28th
  • I am going to do something active (and mostly dog friendly) every day, for the next 30 days
  • I am going to increase my water intake to at least 1 liter a day

My goals have remained the same, but the path on how I get there has changed. I really liked my boot camp classes, and I will incorporate a lot of what I learned into my running/training routine, but I need a break from waking up so early. As far as my diet goes, it seems to be working for me and I seem to like the routine of meal prep. It has proven to be more cost effective and I get to come home for lunch and relax from work for a little while. I chose to set the goal of the Color Run since it is a little over a month out, and I want to have a goal to keep me motivated to do something active every day for a month. Since I have been so busy with work, school, and personal fitness I have been an awful dog Mom. I owe it to Emmy to show her that I didn’t forget about her and that I still love her. There’s only so much homework a dog can stand, so we’re going to get active together. I’ve always struggled with drinking water, so I’ve added lemons and limes to my shopping list and will be making fruit-infused water to drink each day in hopes of increasing my water intake.

As for my 30 day activity challenge some of the activities will include:

  • Running
  • Walking the marina
  • Biking
  • Swimming (Emmy doesn’t care for this one, but she loves to go to the beach!)
  • Hiking
  • Softball (Emmy will have to sit this one out too)
  • Yoga
  • and others

Mainly I will be using the Couch to 5K app to train for the Color Run, so I will be doing lots of walking, jogging, and running. I plan to include my plyometric exercises into my running training to help break up the repetitive nature. I also plan on doing basic arm strengthening exercises to balance out my top and bottom halves. 30 push-up challenge anyone?

This is the guideline for the pushup challenge I’ll be doing, and no, I won’t count the pushups as my “daily activity”. Who wants to join me? The 30 day challenge will run from May 17-June 15th. Leave a comment below and let me know if you want to join in on the fun, we can stay motivated together!


The Power Of Protein

Protein is an essential nutrient for sustaining life. The Paleo diet focuses a lot of emphasis on protein consumption and the benefits of eating a protein rich diet. I will discuss lots of ways to get your healthy daily serving of protein, a few no-no’s where paleo and protein don’t mix and the ways that you can get enough protein if you are a vegetarian on a paleo diet.

The staples of protein and paleo. This is pretty self explanatory, eat some meat!!! Lean meat is the building block of the paleo lifestyle. Red meat, white meat, the other white meat (pork) is ok as long as it’s not curred with nasty chemicals. Seafood is one of the healthiest forms of protein, and least fatty making some fish “superfoods”. The other sources of protein come from animal products, eggs specifically, nuts, and vegetables. Eggs are almost a requirement when eating paleo, I eat about 18 a week. I also snack on nuts and eat lots of protein rich veggies like spinach, kale, mushrooms, sprouts, yams etc. You have to be careful when eating paleo since it doesn’t allow things like legumes, beans, lentils. Which brings us to our next topic, the no-no’s of paleo and protein.

Paleo is designed to mimic the caveman diet. So when thinking about what is allowed and not allowed, just think to yourself, “was this available during the caveman era?” So a short list of protein rich foods that are not allowed due to unavailability, processed nature etc.

  • Soybeans and soy products like tofu. They are actually poisonous when not cooked and lots of cavemen ate their food raw, so after watching “Bubba” the caveman keel over after eating some soybeans, the other little cavemen steered clear of this plant.
  • Legumes/Beans/Lentils: These high protein beauties also need to be cooked before consumption, and lets face it “ain’t nobody got time for that”
  • Potatoes, they are made up of resistant starch, or starch that cannot be broken down by your digestive system.

  • Processed meats. This is pretty self explanatory. If it’s been processed with a bunch of salt or chemicals, you probably shouldn’t eat it. There weren’t hot dogs available in the caveman days, and for a good reason. Is that even meat? Here’s a pretty good blog post on the questionable nature of hot dogs.

Finally, what on earth do the vegetarian cave-people eat? Well, I think that back in the paleolithic era they would have starved, but since we are trying to include all people (except for those damn vegans J/K) there are ways to eat paleo while respecting your fellow earthlings (if you ever want to be forced to become a vegetarian I suggest you watch the documentary, Earthlings, linked above). Anywho, back to our vegetarian friends. Essentially vegetarians can eat all of the things above, minus the meat. Pretty simple, right? They may consider supplementing their diet with protein shakes like Muscle Egg, but the need to be conscious to stay away from soy, and whey protein (made with milk).

Protein is your friend, it helps nourish your body and gives you energy to work out and work hard since it is a slow release calorie. You stay fuller, longer and don’t experience a glucose crash after eating a big meal.

So go out there and eat a steak, and feel good knowing that you are eating something healthy!

When The Going Gets Tough, Too Tough

This post is about truly knowing yourself and your limits. I believe that in order to be the healthiest version of yourself you need to be constantly monitoring signs and symptoms of your body and mind telling you that enough is enough. It’s probably not the greatest idea to go to a 6 AM boot camp class after throwing up until 4 AM the same day. I think we would all see this as a pretty extreme situation, but we would all probably agree on what needed to happen. Most of us would just shrug it off as no big deal, but I found myself feeling let down by my body. I felt like my level of dedication to my goal and myself could overpower any obstacle. Once I stopped feeling guilty and distraught, I was able to evaluate the situation under a new perspective. What if I wasn’t listening to what my body really needed? What if I was doing more harm than good?

There are tons of articles and blog posts claiming the “No Pain, No Gain” theory. When in reality, pain is a way for our bodies to communicate that they’ve had enough, and we should back off. I’ve heard people say that you have a weak mind if you stop working out, that your body can handle the rest, but there are limits! There is a difference between finding motivation to push through soreness, but I think there is an unhealthy trend of people pushing themselves and others past the point of pain and in the direction of serious injury.

There is a condition called rhabdomyolysis that has been linked to the CrossFit craze. In a nutshell this condition is caused by the breakdown of muscle fibers which can occur during strenuous exercise, specifically skeletal muscle, that are then released into the bloodstream and then filtered out, like anything else, through your kidneys. The issue with this is that your kidneys are not equipped for this type of cleanup, so they cease to do their main job of filtering toxins and waste from the bloodstream. This is a pretty serious condition that could lead to renal (kidney) failure, liver failure, seizures, cardiac arrest due to high potassium concentration etc. Let’s be clear, this is a rare occurring disorder, and can be caused by a multitude of things, not just CrossFit (I don’t want to spread any rumors here).

So here is my list for deciding when enough is enough and being okay with it

  • Sharp pain, or injury
  • Massive amounts of blood
  • Projectile vomiting, or any vomiting for that matter
  • Passing out
  • Sickness (no need to spread germs and make healing time longer)
  • Complete exhaustion
  • Migraines

On the other hand, here is my list of obstacles I need to push through

  • Soreness
  • Tiredness (who isn’t tired at 5:30 AM)
  • Laziness
  • Procrastination
  • Depression (trust me, going and getting all sweaty during a good workout is almost always a cure for the blues)

I encourage you to be receptive to your body’s cues and don’t be discouraged when you have to take it easy for a few days because you pulled a hammy. It will thank you for giving it time to heal, and you will be back on track to becoming stronger.

Motivation to Move It Move It!!!

If you’re anything like me you get bored easily. I like the spice of life, I love things like buffets and Yogurt Beach, and routines to me get old quickly. How does someone like me keep motivated to keep exercising, when you can easily fall into a workout rut? Well I’ve come up with a few ideas and activities to keep you motivated to Move It. Move It!

  • Try a new activity! Drop in on a Crossfit Class over at Double Edge Crossfit, or try Acroyoga at The Studio. My personal favorite was when i took flight at Reno Aerial Artistry’s beginners silks class. Holy moly, what a workout! I was sore for 4 days, and really motivated to go back! The cost was $15 and worth every penny! It was like self-inflicted bondage mixed with suspended ballet. You feel liberated, captivating, strong and beautiful. It is a very powerful activity. Plus, you’re likely to steal the show, for example…
  • As my husband put it, “Yes, this really happened!” These ladies are some of the most dedicated, hardworking individuals that I know, plus they are great, patient teachers.
  • Some other activities to try include: Go on a bike ride, take your dog for a run or swim or hike, join a team (I play softball on Wednesday nights), take a dance class or just go dancing, go to Jump Man Jump and run around like a 3rd grader high on pixie sticks, go rock climbing, play basketball… the list is endless. Just do something that gets you moving.
  • Another great motivator is music! Make some awesome playlists to keep you motivated to keep running. You can find tons of pre-made playlists online, but I prefer to make my own. The goal with any playlist is to choose songs that have relatively high BPM that drives you.
  • I also get motivated to workout when I have a new pair of running shoes or workout outfit. It may seem silly, but I feel like if I make a purchase for a specific item I will be obligated to use it. Plus I want everyone to see my shiny new shoes 😉

Motivation doesn’t come easily to all of us, the key is to find something fun to keep your attention so you keep working toward your goals. I challenge you to go out on a limb and try a new activity. See if you don’t get jazzed about life, causing you to be more dedicated than ever to your goal, and remember to Move It Move It!


Gluten: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

One of the major selling points of the Paleo lifestyle is that it is gluten free, making it a simple diet for those suffering from gluten allergies. Is it just me, or does it seem that there is an epidemic of gluten intolerance and gluten allergies in the US. It’s estimated that 1 in 133 people have Celiac Disease, the most severe form of gluten intolerance, but a true statistic showing how many people suffer from gluten intolerance/sensitivity/allergy is impossible to collect since there is currently no accepted test for gluten allergies. What’s the deal? I mean how did a staple food, like wheat, become so toxic to the human body? I set out to investigate what the causes of developing a gluten sensitivity/allergy are as well as the consequences of gluten allergies.

First, gluten is defined as a substance that gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep shape. It is found in foods like wheat, rye, barley, and foods derived from them. Gluten is a protein composite consisting of a gliadin fraction and a glutenin fraction. Gluten and wheat are not the same thing, and wheat is not the only substance that contains gluten, just to clear up a couple of common misconceptions. 

Gluten allergies/intolerances are a “spectrum disease”  the chart below shows the levels of gluten issues.

Some gluten issues are caused by the body attacking itself when gluten is present, aka an autoimmune disease such as Celiac disease. There is a full blow gluten allergy which could trigger anaphylactic shock, or cause respiratory issues. The third tier, not autoimmune/not allergic, is reserved for people who have a gluten sensitivity that cannot be categorized as Celiac Disease nor allergic reaction to gluten. It’s the catch-all category for those who can’t be diagnosed.

So what are we doing wrong? Why has the number of people diagnosed with Celiac Disease risen to 1 in 133 people from 1 in 5000 people 50 years ago? One answer, given by several references suggests that the rise of genetically modified organisms is directly responsible for the explosion of Celiac cases. GMO wheat has new proteins that weren’t present in wheat from the 60’s, and they may be the culprit for causing these allergies. Another study suggests that from 1997 to 2002, the time when GMO’s were first hitting the grocery store shelves, that people hospitalized for food allergic reactions jumped 265%!

What can we do to fix it? Well, for starters cut out GMO or processed foods. If you eat frankenfood, you’ll get sick. Same goes for all that processed stuff that has ingredients you can’t pronounce. Next, eat whole foods like fruits, vegetables, water, lean meats etc. The more basic the ingredient list the fewer variables contributing to the decline of your health. If you feel sluggish, sick, bloated etc after eating something that has gluten in it, try and cut the gluten out and see if you feel better. I’m not a doctor, so if you think there is something seriously wrong you should probably go visit someone with an MD after their name.

The health benefits of going gluten free are numerous, plus there are some pretty crafty people out there making lots of healthy gluten free options so you don’t need to miss out on you favorite foods. Like dessert, if you’re going to give gluten free a try, just remember that the lovely folks over at Campo have your back, and make mean gluten free desserts! Give one a try the next time you’re in Downtown Reno!

My Love Hate Relationship With Plyometrics

Uggh, the first thought that comes to mind when you say “burpee”.

If you ask “The Ripped Dude”, Obi Obadike, why you should include plyometrics into your workouts he’ll tell you that the combination of muscle groups used helps develop coordination, balance, and endurance. They also keeps your body guessing and strengthens fast-twitch muscle fibers. In my experience, doing plyometrics for 15 minutes does a better job of keeping your heart rate up than running on the treadmill for an hour.

Let me count the ways I love thee…

  • Plyometrics are great for people with a short attention span…squirrel!
  • There are countless combinations and variations for all ability levels
  • You can perform most of them without any equipment
  • They make you feel like even “white girls can jump”
  • You begin to see immediate results in strength and endurance
  • They make you feel like a 3rd grader again playing hopscotch of death
  • You feel like you ran a marathon in 15 minutes

Let me tell you why I HATE plyometrics

  • They make you look like a fish out of water, flopping around gasping for breath
  • You get up close and personal with the ground, sometimes at a high speed
  • You find it very difficult to peel yourself off the ground once you’ve encountered it
  • You feel like maybe “white girls can’t jump” afterall
  • You feel like you ran a marathon in 15 minutes

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” Theodore Roosevelt

Here’s a short video on the 44 best Plyometric moves

Give some of these exercises a try during your next workout, and see if you don’t really like the results.

It’s The Little Wins That Lead To Big Change

I started week 5 of my challenge feeling a little discouraged. I let my weekly weigh-in put me in a bad mood. As I stood on the scale staring down at my feet to read the digital numbers, I started smoldering thinking “what do you mean I’ve only lost half a pound this week!” I let a few little numbers represent something negative rather than seeing what they were truly indicative of, change. Change in my body composition, change in my eating habits, change in motivation to get myself moving again. It showed that I was transforming fat into muscle, that I was losing inches and that the pounds didn’t matter.

I consulted Heather, the owner and trainer of the boot camp gym I go to about my discouragement. Her reassuring words of kindness and her history of helping people transform their bodies put me at ease. It went something like this, “don’t worry about the number on the scale, I can already see results in your body and the inches you’ve lost! In my experience the first few weeks you are shrinking the space that the fat cells take up and morphing them into muscle tissue, that’s why you lose inches faster than pounds most of the time. Don’t worry the pounds will come off, just be patient.” As you read from my last blog I talked about my inability to do anything in moderation, I think impatience is a facet of putting too much on your plate. Let’s say I’m not very patient, I want it NOW!

I think many people are discouraged when they step on the scale after starting a new diet and exercise program. Mark Sisson, one of my favorite bloggers writes an amazing blog on why you may not be losing weight. You can find it here. He lists 17 reasons and also encourages patience and ways to fine tune your diet and workout. I’ll be looking into fine tuning my diet this week to see if I have any added success, even though I feel like I have been very dedicated, with no cave in to cravings.

In the spirit of some really good advice, I’m going to try and be patient. I’m going to continue to be dedicated to my course and allow the time needed to complete my goal in a healthy and self-loving manner. I’m going to rejoice in the little wins like tightening my belt a notch, and being able to climb the stairs without being out of breath. I’m going to be grateful that acquaintances that haven’t seen me in a while notice that I’ve changed shape. I’m not going to let numbers on the scale signify my value or importance, rather I’m going to let it be one way to measure my success, and not my failings.

With my “win” for the week I am going to celebrate the little things each day. What do you do to stay motivated when you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle? I drink some green tea and snuggle my dog. Leave a comment and let me know what you do! Also you can follow me on Twitter @julesackerson


Transformation, A Two-Step Process


trans·form (verb)

1. to change in form, appearance, or structure; metamorphose.

2. to change in condition, nature, or character; convert.

To go through a true transformation, I believe there needs to be elements of each of the two definitions above. The obvious, and maybe the easier of the two involve a change to one’s physical nature. What many fail to realize, is that in setting out to change one’s physical self that they need to also change their inner selves.

Since the start of my 12 week transformation challenge 2 weeks ago, I have seen more immediate results in the changes I am making to my nature, or character. Since I have more self-love and dedication to my physical goals, I am finding it easier to stick to my goals that don’t involve my diet or exercise. I am committed to doing my best at work and school even though I may be exhausted, I am becoming a morning person (something my mother would have never thought possible) since I am dedicated to achieving my goals and need the most time available. I have changed my spending habits since I go grocery shopping for my whole week on Sunday, and now very rarely eat out.

I have also changed my view on food, let me be the first to confess that I am addicted to food (that’s kinda how I got here); but now I view it as fuel for my body to perform it’s job to the fullest, and I’m conscious more now than ever at the quality of food I eat. The old adage “you wouldn’t put regular grade gasoline in a Ferrari” applies here.

It’s amazing how setting a goal like changing my body is also changing my spirit (for lack of better words) and habits. I am excited to triumph in the little changes I see in my body along the way, but am starting to be even more excited about how my entire attitude and demeanor will change due to self-love and dedication. I have a long road still to go, but small successes help power through the tough times.

If you liked this blog post here’s a link to my previous post, check it out won’t ya?

A little birdie suggests for more stuff like this follow me on twitter @julesackerson

Who do we really cheat on “Cheat Days”?

Week 1 of my transformation challenge is complete, and a very strange thing happened to me this week as I have been eating clean and working out, my body has been more efficient and energized! I was so happy with the results I was seeing in this short amount of time that I made a deal with myself, that I could have a cheat day! Many diets suggest a couple of cheat meals throughout the week are not only beneficial to your mental health (let’s face it, eating broccoli for 3 meals a day 7 days straight could drive anyone mad) but is also good for the overall strategy of your diet. As I found out, there is an added benefit to cheat days, they sometimes make you feel miserable so you are excited to go back on your “dreaded diet”.

My cheat day consisted of lunch at Chipotle, which is actually a pretty healthy option if you find yourself needing to eat out. I ordered a chicken bowl with black beans, brown rice, salsa and added cheese and sour cream as my “cheat” since I’m not eating dairy. So far so good, this was the first meal I had eaten away from home all week. Next my husband and I went to the new IMAX movie theater and saw RoboCop, and since it was opening weekend they gave away a medium drink and medium popcorn to everyone. Great, I thought, since I don’t really like popcorn and I don’t drink soda, but we felt obligated to consume free movie snacks. After a few bites of popcorn and a few sips of pink lemonade, my stomach started to hurt, so I tossed the rest in the trash. My hubby however, finished the slushee he ordered and paid for it dearly after the movie. High fructose corn syrup is terrible for you, but that’s another story for a later time.

We had planned to go to Grimaldi’s after the movie, but it seemed like everyone else in the theater had the same idea, and we didn’t want to wait (even though they are worth it!). So we eventually ended up at the Olive Garden. We split the chicken and shrimp carbonara, which was rich, and flavorful. As my taste buds were enjoying the carbohydrates and cream sauce, my stomach was complaining that it was not up for the job of trying to extract nutrients from this food. So, not to go TMI on you, it was out as fast as it was in.

So why do we think that we need to reward ourselves with something bad after doing so much good? It’s akin to the skit Bill Cosby performs about alcohol. It’s attached below for your viewing pleasure. After watching the video, let me know what you think might be a better reward for all my hard work.