Ok, it is Tuesday, so that means that it is time for the second installment of my interview with Ms. Gabby Blawas. This week we're talking about weight loss goals, exercising, and those dreaded plateaus (and how to avoid them!) I cannot tell you how excited I am to share Gabby's story with you each week. She is such an inspiration to me and to us all! I'm thrilled that now I can also call her a very dear friend as we've gotten to know each other better in the last few weeks! She's just an awesome girl, and we're on a mission to change the world!1. I know you are a big proponent of working out and lifting now, but when did you begin exercising? What exercises did you do at the beginning of your journey? What kinds of things do you do now?
When I first started my journey, I was overwhelmed. Everything I had ever tried before didn’t work so I had to start from scratch. It was too much to try to think about getting my eating on point AND exercising so I gave myself two weeks to just solely focus on eating right. For the first two weeks I didn’t exercise at all. In those two weeks, I did a lot of research on exercising and what I should be doing. I also called my brother, who was a fitness buff, for advice, and I picked his brain a bit. I was so severely overweight, I honestly could barely move. I knew I would have to start small and work my way up the exercise ladder. Through my research and talking with my brother, I knew I had to start doing some kind of weight training to build lean muscle AND I needed to do cardio. I was scared, I had never weight trained before.
I started a baby weight training circuit that I had put together from looking online at different exercises. I bought a set of 1 pound dumbbells and had about five arm exercises that I did with them. I would also do squats and lunges (without holding the dumbbells). I performed each of the exercises 12 times (12 reps) and I would go through my list of exercises two times (two sets). It only took me 10-15 minutes but it was where I had to start. I eventually moved onto 1 ½ lb dumbbells, then 3lb, and so on. Once you have a list of exercises put together, if you are unsure on how to perform them, you can search virtually any exercise on YouTube and there will be videos showing you how to execute them. That is exactly what I did.
As for cardio, I mostly walked but I also bought a couple DVDs. There’s a ton out there and some even have beginner, intermediate, and advanced workouts on the same disc so you can advance as you get stronger and more capable. I also had bought a Wii Fit game called My Fitness Coach. I loved it. It gave you periodic physical challenge tests and automatically adjusted your workout for you based on your capabilities. You have a trainer on the TV doing the exercises with you and all the while there’s a ticker tape scrolling on the bottom of the screen to tell you which exercise is coming up next. It was perfect for me. (*Beware though, they came out with My Fitness Coach 2 , and by now maybe even a 3 or 4, and it’s nothing like the first one that I’m speaking of. If you want to try it, try to find the original one.).
My world today involves a much more intense fitness regimen. As you get more healthy and fit, you need to up your game. As my body got stronger, I wanted to challenge myself. My main components for cardio are running, jump roping, boxing, and kick boxing. My hubs and I joined a combat gym years ago to learn boxing and we both fell madly in love with it. Unfortunately last year both my husband and I needed surgeries (his knee and my leg) so we can no longer actually fight in the ring; however, we can still train just as intense as we ever did. We have a heavy bag at home and all the proper equipment so we continue to train at home. Boxing is an intense cardio workout and, in my opinion, so empowering. Especially for women. It is so liberating to feel so strong and capable of defending yourself. I think so many women are lacking in both of those areas. There’s absolutely no reason why women can’t feel physically powerful. I never have until recent years, and it is an amazing feeling.
My weight training regimen involves a lot of different methods. I do a pretty intense weight circuit at the gym but I also do a lot at home. I’m a huge fan of body weight resistance exercises. Firstly, they are very effective. They are tried and true. There are countless body weight exercises but my favorites are squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, burpees, crunches, and planks. Secondly, body weight exercises don’t cost a thing. If you have a body and a floor, you’re good to go. Even a 15 minute session 3x/week can make a big difference in building muscle.
For weight training, I also like using the resistant bands, medicine balls, and kettle bells. There is so much out there to explore. There is definitely something out there for everybody. I suggest to try different methods out to find your favorites.
Plyometrics, which is also called ’jump training’, is one of my most favorite ways to train. Plyometrics combines both weight training AND cardio. It burns mega calories and builds muscle at the same time. I absolutely love it. But it’s definitely intense and not something I would recommend starting out with if you’re brand new on your fitness journey.
There is a wealth of information on the internet. You can search beginner workouts of any kind and print them out, read reviews on the best DVD workouts, and even watch workout videos on your computer. The amount of resources is fantastic. Grab yourself a nice cup of coffee and surf the web. Before you know it, you’ll have a stack of workouts printed out. Just remember to start small. You can always build up and add or change things to suit your level. You’ll be surprised how quickly you progress. Even though your mind might not want to exercise, your body craves it, needs it, and wants it. Once you start giving your body what it wants, it’ll show you how much it loves it by showing you results… and you’ll feel great.2. Did you have a specific weight you wanted to reach when you started? How often did you weigh yourself during your journey?
Well, there are two answers to this question. There’s the answer I would’ve gave when I was just starting my journey and then there’s the answer I would’ve gave after I knew what I was doing, which was about half way through my journey. Before I started, I wanted to be around 130-135 pounds. I’m not sure exactly where I got that number or the reason behind it, but that was my goal weight. In relation to the scale, in the beginning, I was on that damn thing every other day. I was obsessed with the scale and the ‘numbers’. After months of me crying and then my husband throwing the scale away, I really didn’t weigh myself. If I happened to be at a doctor’s office or if I was at my mom’s house and I thought about it, I‘d weigh myself but the scale didn‘t appeal to me after my ‘revelation‘. I might have weighed myself every 2 or 3 months, if that. I solely went by measurements. I had Jay measure me once a month. In the end I wanted to be smaller. Once I really let that sink in, the scale didn’t matter to me anymore. I knew in my head how I wanted to look, so I figured whatever weight I was at when that happened… well, that was going to be my goal weight. I didn’t know what it was going to be and quite honestly it was very freeing. Every month, the measurements told me I was smaller and that was good enough for me.
My advice for everyone is to rely on measurements and not what the scale is saying. If you absolutely must weigh yourself, I would do it on a monthly basis. The scale can be a huge source of discouragement. Measurements are the only true way to see if you’re making real progress.
3. Did you ever plateau in your weight loss, and if so, how did you combat this?
The only plateau I ever had was in the very beginning. But it actually turned out to not
be a true plateau. Let me explain. For the first four months, I only lost a few pounds. I was devastated. I was doing everything right. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was spot on with everything. I cried everyday. I couldn’t believe it. I finally made the changes it took me ten years to make and it wasn’t working. When I would tell people I was doing everything right for four months with no success, they looked at me like I was a big fat liar. I could feel their eye rolls as soon as I turned my back. I have say though, I was
feeling better. I felt healthier and stronger. I knew something right
was happening inside of me but geez, I wanted to drop the weight. I knew something was wrong.
One doctor and two nutritionists later, I finally found out what was wrong. I had something called Insulin Resistance
. Insulin Resistance is when your insulin levels are chronically elevated. High insulin levels cause more glucose to be converted into fat and stored in the fat cells. Even worse, insulin prevents the release of fat from the fat cells. Your fat gets trapped inside of the cells and no matter what amount of diet or exercise your doing, that fat doesn’t want to leave and it stays trapped. Because of this, people with insulin resistance (and most don't know they have it) have a lot of trouble losing weight. It’s not impossible, but it is much more difficult to lose weight than someone who doesn’t have insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is often a precursor to many metabolic disorders, mainly type 2 diabetes. This definitely applied to me since I was basically minutes away from developing full-blown type 2 diabetes.
Ok, so now what? Well, the plan was to keep doing what I was doing but make a couple changes. First, the nutritionist told me to cut out all refined and processed foods. For the most part, I honestly was already doing that, but I was drinking diet pop and sometimes eating those 100 calorie pack snacks. Secondly, I was told to increase the weight training. Weight training exercises are known to help tremendously with insulin resistance. Again, I was already doing this, but I took it up a notch.
I was happy to finally have some answers AND the confirmation that I wasn‘t crazy. However, I was still very discouraged… but I never gave up. My willpower was ironclad. I was not going to be the reason for failure this time. If my body wasn't going to cooperate and it was going to 'resist' losing weight, well that was out of my control. But it wasn't going to be because of me.
This was war. I honestly looked at it like a war. And it was on. It was on like Donkey Kong.
After I made those couple changes and kept plugging away, SOMETHING GLORIOUS HAPPENED!
After four months, my body finally got on board with the damn program. I can't explain it but one day I woke up and everything felt in sync. Almost immediately, I began noticing my clothes getting bigger on me and I started looking smaller. I mean, I looked noticeably smaller each week. I started shrinking. I was still huge and most people who didn't know me well didn't see any differences. But I did. And I wasn't imagining it. Oh, it was ON. After this breakthrough, I religiously lost inches and got smaller every single month until the end of my journey. It never waned.
*It’s important to note that in all of my 10 years of previous attempts at losing weight, I hit plateaus every single time.
I’d hit plateaus time after time until I’d just quit altogether. Then I would gain my weight back (and then some) and I’d be in worse shape than before. This time was the only time I never hit a plateau and this was the only time I ever weight trained.
I FULLY ATTRIBUTE NEVER HITTING A PLATEAU ON THE SOLE BASIS THAT I WEIGHT TRAINED.
WEIGHT TRAINING IS THE KEY TO PREVENTING PLATEAUS.
As you build lean muscle, your body burns more and more calories for you. The more lean muscle you build, the faster your metabolism runs. Lean muscle mass keeps all your cylinders firing at full speed around the clock. You can’t rely on just changing your eating to try to overcome a plateau. You can only cut calories so much. It is extremely unhealthy and counterproductive to not eat enough.
* It’s important to note that even though I didn’t have a plateau, Plateaus are VERY common when losing weight.
If you find yourself in a plateau, here’s a few things to consider:
A. START A FOOD AND EXERCISE LOG. WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. EVERYTHING!
Many times you can see a pattern that you weren’t aware of or find some hidden calories that you were not counting. Some people refer to these hidden calories as the ‘calorie creep’. Big time examples of often overlooked calories are with sauces, spreads, salad dressings, coffee creamers, oils, nuts, seeds, and condiments. Alcohol is a big culprit too. Check your serving size. Even with very healthy foods like nuts, seeds, and olive oils, it is VERY easy to consume hundreds upon hundreds of calories. A small handful of nuts (1 ounce) can pack a whopping 200 calories. If during the course of one day, you take three small handfuls, that’s 600 calories!
B. TAKE YOUR WEIGHT TRAINING UP A NOTCH AND/OR CHANGE IT UP. Add more
weights or do more reps. There are countless ways to weight train. Try
something different and tax some new muscle groups. The body can get
‘bored’ if we do the same thing over and over.
C. CHANGE YOUR CARDIO UP TOO. If you normally walk for cardio, start doing the elliptical, or a new aerobic DVD, or dancing.
D. EAT SMALLER MEALS, MORE OFTEN. If you eat the bulk of your food in
three main meals, switch it up. Try eating six smaller meals every
three hours. This is the method I use and it keeps my body running
evenly all day long. I find I don’t have energy dips when I eat every
three hours. Cravings disappear too. People hear six meals and
automatically say they don’t have time; however, they’re already eating
three meals plus two or three small snacks every day. It’s basically the
same thing. The key is to eat less during your three main meals and
more at snack time. It ends up the same amount of food but distributed
E. START DOING YOGA. Have you been more stressed lately? High levels
of stress releases more Cortisol into your bloodstream. Cortisol is
known as ‘the stress hormone’. Studies have shown that high levels of
Cortisol in your system all day long can impede weight loss and may even
cause weight gain. Yoga is a great stress reliever. And you end up
killing two birds with one stone. You’re getting exercise AND reducing
F. GET MORE SLEEP! It is proven that getting enough sleep,
helps your body lose weight! If you are sleep deprived, your body is
strained, under more stress, and will resist losing weight.
You have to trust yourself but most
importantly, you need to listen to your body. If you’re feeling a little
run down lately, make a point to go to bed earlier. If you’re feeling
really hungry lately, eat more (of the good stuff). You know your body
best. YOU are the expert on you. Trust your judgment on what you need.
Try hard to not get discouraged. When we are trying to lose weight, we
are putting a lot of new demands on our bodies (and on our minds!). We
are asking our bodies to learn new ways to move, new foods to digest, to
adjust to new body rhythms, and hormonal changes. Every once in a
while, it may need a minute to catch up. Moreover, we are asking our
minds to think in new ways, to change everything we’ve been doing, and
to learn about health and fitness. It’s okay if things get a little
hairy every once in a while. If you stay the course and stay healthy,
the plateau will pass.
I know this is a lot to take in and you’ll need your own time to
learn your own perfect ways that work just for you. But I promise you if
you stay on your healthy path, you will not regret it. This is a
learning process and it is a journey of tremendous change not only in a
physical capacity but in a mental one as well. You will be tested along
the way. When you hit bumps, remind yourself this is normal. Remind
yourself how bad you want a better life for yourself. Remind yourself
that the frustration of this current plateau doesn’t come anywhere close
to the frustration of looking in the mirror and seeing a stranger
staring back at you. Dig deep, take a deep breath, and have faith in
yourself. YOU CAN DO THIS.