Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

13 weeks out

Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 136.4 lbs. We are 13 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 2 solid weeks into cutting. I'm NOT tan this time around so looking at progress pictures from last 13 weeks out is a little difficult. In any case, I know I have WAY more muscle this time! That's really exciting.

Today's Topic: Carb Cycling
Sidenote before I begin: The glute pictures above show my progression from my show in June, August, and then currently. CAKES. I'm feeling pretty great--especially considering I am carb cycling. 250g on training days, and 150g on non-training days. Sundays I eat 200g because I do light delt-training only. It's actually pretty funny that I find it MORE difficult to control my eating on higher carb days than low-carb days--probably because I know I can fit like 24 oz of Yogurtland if I really wanted to! On lower carb days like to day, I have more control and I get to eat more veggies=VERY full Ilyssa by the end of the day. In any case, I have seen a bit of weight fluctuation, but I cannot really judge if this is perfect for my body yet because I need a few more weeks of experimentation. I'm NOT taking TTA500 this time--mainly because it's not on the market anymore. I won't take a fat burner until DEEP in the cut.
I told my iG followers I would post my current days eats! If I have it planned out by the time I write my blog posts, then I will continue to do this.

8 meals. 2023 cal. 63F. 147C. 202P. 2167mg sodium. 38g Fiber. 78g sugar--NOM

  • Meal 1: Almond Milk Latte and 2 pumpkin banana squares. 180cal. 7F. 12.5C. 5P.
  • Meal 2: 4.5 oz 93/7 ground turkey. 100g yellow squash. 25g baby carrots. 232cal. 9F. 9.3C. 25P.
  • Meal 3: Shirataki Noodle Stir Fry. 2.75 oz 93/7 ground turkey with carrots, spinach, yellow squash, broccoli, zucchini, brussels sprouts and topped in 40g Low Fat Ricotta Cheese 267cal. 8F. 26C. 34.4P.
  • Meal 4: 4.5 oz thin-sliced chicken breast. 1 cup broccoli and a few slices of zucchini. 165cal. 1.8F. 5C. 32.5P.
  • Meal 5: 4.5 oz 93/7 ground turkey. 76g zucchini. 37g spinach. 216cal. 9.2F. 4C. 25.5P.
  • Meal 6: Omelette. 15 TBSP Egg Beaters. Spinach, Zucchini, and 1 Aidells Maple and Smoked Bacon Breakfast Link. Topped with 50g Avocado and 40g Low Fat Ricotta Cheese 340cal. 15.5F. 15C. 40.5P.
  • Meal 7: 5 oz Yogurtland Pumpkin Pie NonFat Yogurt with 1 pumpkin banana square and 9g almonds. 246cal. 5.2F. 40C. 9P.
  • Meal 8: French Toast. 2 Eating Right (or Sara Lee) 45cal/slice bread soaked in 2 egg whites, 12g Cellucor Cinnamon Swirl Whey and 1 TBSP Cinnamon. Topped in 1 Dannon Light and Fit 80cal Coconut Greek Yogurt, 1 pumpkin banana square and 9g almonds. 361cal. 7.2F. 34C. 40.6P.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

15 weeks out


I am 15 weeks out today from NPC Bikini Capstone Classic in San Diego. My weight is around 139-140 lbs. Way more muscle this time versus 15 weeks out from my first show. Cannot wait to update you all yet again! Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I'm baaaaaack

So I took some time away from this blog to focus in on what my next set of goals were. I've been contacted by quite a few companies for mini-sponsorships and taste tests so I decided to come back and start to share my recipes on a weekly basis. I'm currently prepping for a powerlifting meet on October 27th (in the 132 weight class)...which means I am on a slow bulk at about 2000 calories a day. My weight is sitting at around 134-135. Coach wants me up to 138 and then we'll do a water cut for the show. I'm GROWING because I'm eating what I want as long as it fits my macros (iifym) and following a bit of intermittent fasting (not eating til 1-2 in the afternoon and then eating til about 10-11 pm).

Here are some progress pics. Tomorrow I will start the recipes!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Contest Shots and Solid Results

So the score cards came out and I most definitely placed 6th. That's really cool! I had some 5's in there too which gave me hope that some of the judges realized I had the potential to be in the Top 5. :) I pretty much ate my face off the past week down at my boyfriend's family's house and gained several, 6 or 7. Haha. But that's okay. I'm at a normal weight now--135-136 pounds and I'm back at around 1750 cal for the next 12 days. I leave for Vancouver, Canada with my Dads that day and I know that I won't be able to keep a solid diet while on vacation. I'm hoping to get back down to around 132/133 pounds and stay there, so I'm (OH MY GOSH) going to do a bit of cardio this week. I've attached some professional shots from the show. Enjoy!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Results Post #1

Let's get the point: I got first call-outs! But I placed 6th out of 12. The Top 5 had competed before, and they all had more muscle than I did coming in. I also had a natural chest/no padding. Whatever! They still had WAY better bodies than much more hard work. I can only aspire to put in that much time and effort. They called out the first 5 and then asked me to join the line up for the first round of comparisons. I was just amazed that I got to be out there in first call outs with those amazingly shredded ladies. I'm really really proud of the progress I made and the fact that I got top half my very first show ever! I brought the best package I could have possibly brought and though those last couple days with no water, minimal food choices, and no sodium were pretty much KILLING me, I was so overjoyed that I did as well as I did (all I wanted was to not place last!). I will update more once I get my professional shots / score sheets. Enjoy this for now.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

3 days out

Depletion starts tomorrow. I am the leanest I have ever been in my whole life. I feel amazing. Been getting in great training lately, and have felt so so so so so blessed by the company I have gotten to enjoy that training with. Y'all will see pictures from the show and I'll explain ;) Currently at normal-negative 100 intake of calories with a reduced carb load. Tomorrow, low carbs, low sodium, low fiber aka no Quest Bars. I have to shave my whole body--joy! Just gonna get work over with tonight and clean, and prep all day tomorrow. Friday is gonna be killer--little to no water and tanning, and check-in, and early bed time. Luckily I'll have some help that night and Saturday morning waking up at 4 am to start eating every 2 hours or so. Wish me luck guys. Please shoot me some e-mails or texts or instagram messages with well-wishes because I'm nervous and I'm gonna need them. THANK YOU!

Monday, June 24, 2013

5 days out PEAK WEEK

Black and White suit picture because the color will be a surpriseeeee. 5 Days Away. I'm pretty bloated in these pictures because of increased water intake. But I know that the final two days water intake will be cut down and carb loading will begin, which is exciting. Coach completely revamped my entire Peak Week diet and saved me from crashing and burning in a broscience hell :) He made things easier on me and I'm hoping and praying that my carb intake works out and I look really dry on stage. I have everything set to go. I just need to get my nails done Thursday and pretty much shave my whole body that night to get ready for the tan on Friday. Meh.

The amazing experiences I've had in this past week could not have come at a better time. It's been full of yoga, clean food, gym sessions, adventures in San Francisco--everything I've needed to distract me from the anxiety of my mind that feels the need to control. Of course I'm freaking out--I get to eat real food in 5 days!--but moreso than that I've been so so blessed by the support that has been poured out from all around me (by a wonderful man, in particular, as well!) I am so happy with this life that I live, and I finally feel so whole. It's really refreshing that this boost of confidence and peace is coming right when I need it most. I know God has me in His arms, and I know I'm gonna rock that stage because I've set myself up for success. Posing comes no problem. Heel-walking is no problem. Joy and Happiness exude from my face no problem. I'm not worried, I'm not "sick of dieting," I'm not "over it," I'm just ready to GO.

Again, to touch on my peak week diet. We're moreso going to regulate sodium intake and cut carbs in a few days. Right now I'm smooth sailing. The MORNING OF competition I will have to wake up every two hours to take in some high carb meals so that I can pretty much swell my muscles. I will update again on either Wednesday or Thursday to let you all know how I'm doing. Follow me on instagram @ohilyssa for more!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

7 days out

So I am not doing an update today because I want to see how the first day of peak week goes. I will update tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

1.5 weeks out

Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 128.4 lbs. We are 1.5 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 13.5 solid weeks into cutting.

Today's Topic: The Final Countdown
So now we are 10 days out. This means I can officially count DAYS until I compete. I'm sitting here, drinking my coffee, and reflecting about the incredible experience this has been. I have learned and grown so much, spiritually and physically. I've learned that I CAN push the boundaries of fitness and I CAN be that girl with the rockin' body I never thought I would have. I'm not going to say I have been able to let go of enviousness (girls like Jessica Arevalo are the bane of my existence--in a good way haha!) but I have been able to learn to love my body and truly see the value of good nutrition and a lifestyle focused on fitness. Positivity breeds positivity. I'm hoping that so much good comes out of this...even if that means competing 6 months down the road because I have so much to work on to bring a better package. I'm hoping that you all, my regular readers, have gotten a positive glimpse into the world I live and I truly hope I've inspired at least one person to go get after their fitness dreams.

Today I'm eating a 2 quest bars (I know I know), oatmeal, coffee, a banana, PB2...a greek yogurt! SAY WHATTTTT...4 oz ground turkey and egg whites...4 oz chicken breast 1/2 cup broccoli...1/2 cup cottage cheese...4 oz chicken breast 1/2 cup broccoli, 6 oz sweet potato...and then 2 mini protein cheesecakes. I have 127 calories left over to use how I please. I benched / did upper body training this morning at 7:30 followed by 22 minutes of a brisk walk on the incline treadmill. Coach said that instead of decreasing my calories, I can do small amounts of REAL cardio every day this week. I know I say all the time that I do minimal to NO cardio...but I'm trying to keep my calories high enough to function throughout the day, so I'd rather do some traditional bunnyrabbit training to help me with that. I'm hoping to walk across stage at around 126-127 lbs.

Tomorrow I'm going into the city to practice yoga with a friend at Urban Flow. It's been a hot minute since I got to flow at that studio so I'm super excited to get back to it. Woke up this morning and did some sun salutations before benching to get the blood moving. The bench workout was AWESOME and I think my stability is getting so much better. Would LOVE to bench 135 some day...had a dream I did the other night and then woke up and was so sad :( Meh. Gotta get that 275 deadlift first...I'll be crazy happy the day that happens (well over 2 times body weight). Speaking of powerlifting movements: I think the next phase of this blog (after the results updates of course) will be a bulking update / strength update. I'm most likely going to stop taking pictures of my scantily clad booty and upload videos of lifting days. Of course, I will still show some progress pictures but because I will be in a bulking phase, it won't be nearly the amount of pictures I've taken during the cut. How many of you would be down to still follow my strength gains? PLEASE don't be afraid to comment on my posts either! I'd love to hear feedback from you all.

I don't really have much to write other than that...keeping my head down. Super excited...though not so much for Saturday when I start cutting carbs. EEP.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

2 weeks out

Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 128.4 lbs. We are 2 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 13 solid weeks into cutting.

Today's Topic: Trust and Support, How I Went From Lazy and Chubby to Fit Inspiration?
For as much hate as I got early on in this prep / weight loss journey, now I'm receiving such an overwhelming amount of love. All of you are wonderful--I don't go a day without a text from SOMEONE telling me that I'm looking awesome or am inspiring them, etc. I'm just so aghast that this is all happening. Why me? Why am I so blessed to live this life? I am so incredibly humbled by your kind words and support. I am so proud to announce that I will be joining the Serious Nutrition Solutions team in a minor role as a social media rep--something I never could have dreamed of doing. Not sure of all the details currently, but I am so overjoyed that a company saw my potential and my love for their products and offered me a solution to my social media itch! This blog has become rather successful, and with the support I have received elsewhere on the web (including Reddit and Instagram), I really hope that this is just the start of a "side job". My dream is to teach English, but with my newfound passion for fitness and lifting, and my desire to get NASM-certified, I think it's very possible that I could pursue something bigger (once I build a LOT more muscle over the next year). I think a great goal to have would be, in about 2 years time, get a pro card for the IFBB...and I think I could obtain that goal if I stick to the plan and keep pursuing excellent training and nutrition. But it's UNBELIEVABLE to me that just 8.5 months ago I was sitting on my couch eating ice cream bars and Pringles...and now I'm here. I don't mean that AT ALL in a vain way...I just wish I had started so much sooner. I LOVE fitness, and I hope I inspire some of you to love it too.

Today marks Hell Week #1. 100% on point diet. No semi-cheating (aka a lick extra of cottage cheese or hand measuring my oats to about half a cup). We are going STRICT--weighing everything down to the gram and making every macronutrient count. Tonight will be my very last "ice cream"--a Skinny Cow-- until exactly 2 weeks from now. That means no Arctic Zeros either (that extra 150 calories could be expended on chicken and steak and brown rice--clean foods that are non-processed/non-engineered). I will let myself have a Quest bar a day (today is my last day with 2 Quest Bars) because those calories could be spent elsewhere. I need to start controlling my sodium and carb intake now so that Peak Week isn't SO dramatic (no sauces, no sodium, little to no carbs for 3 days, etc). Coach is still reading, still experimenting, and I'm still trusting. And that's what this is all about--TRUST. I need to trust in myself, trust in my coach, trust in the feedback I'm getting from teammates and loved ones. This is now a mental game. I've done everything I could possibly do to get as lean as I've gotten. All we have left is a nice hypertrophy week followed by drying out. I will be MISERABLE next Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday (June 24, 25, & 26) because it'll be the hardest diet I've ever been on. But internally I know I've done the spiritual work to help send me through to the final stage.

I have jumped the hurdles of fear and doubt, I got rid of my major bloating (mainly by going off birth control and not eating 4 Quest Bars a day), and I've incorporated tiny bits of real cardio into my plan. I'm so so so glad I trusted Zach when he said "you do NOT need to do cardio every day, twice a day...or even every day...or even, meh Eff it, don't do cardio unless it's yoga." I had read SO much going into this prep, and I'd watched girls on instagram and so on and so forth. All of them seemed to be doing TONS of cardio (you won't find me at a cardio machine but MAYBE once a week). All of them seemed to be eating chicken and tilapia and broccoli and asparagus. And yeah, I eat 3/4 of those things...but I ATE REAL FOOD, DAMNIT. I ate what fit in my macros. That meant lots of egg whites, oats, almonds, avocado, salads, filet mignons, greek yogurt, Chipotle sides of steak and chicken, carrots, brown rice, quinoa...and my diet changed EVERY day. I thought that the key to success was prepping 6 meals of chicken and broccoli. Nope. No way in hell I was going to limit myself to a cookie cutter diet or not let myself have some frozen yogurt if I wanted it. Of course, my diet is actually what I will stick with forever--when I'm done prep I will just eat MORE of what I've already been eating--but it's been fun to experiment and change things up to fulfill my macros for that day. I've learned SO much about my body so that next time I compete, once I know what I need to improve, I can really dial in. It's a game, and while I was obsessed with filling out MyFitnessPal, I never obsessed about eating the same things and I can guarantee NO ONE has heard me complain about "dieting" or "how hard it is"... because it HASN'T been hard... it's been delicious and fun the whole way through. The only thing making it hard now is the fact that I am SO. CLOSE. TO. CHEESECAKE. AHHHHH! :P

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

2.5 weeks out

Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 128.6 lbs. We are 2.5 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 12.5 solid weeks into cutting.

Today's Topic: Holding Fast and Setting Yourself Up For Success
So I've got everything set up. Scheduled my tan and bought my jewelry. Just waiting on my suit to come in and then I will pay my competition fee...everything is really expensive but I have been budgeting for so long for this because I KNEW I needed to set myself up for success. Maybe in the future if I pull a true sponsorship I can get some of the fees alleviated from my aching, working back haha! Speaking of: something SO cool was Quest Nutrition sending me a care package of SIX boxes FULL of bars. I write about Quest all the time, and post about them on Instagram, so I am so grateful for the support. Additionally, I'm hoping I can do well enough at this competition that Serious Nutrition Solutions can hook me up with some product. I've used both their fat burner and their pre-workout...INCREDIBLE. I'm absolutely obsessed. I cannot wait to try their X-gels and other products. Last night Jeff and I got to pose for awhile at 24hr and it was definitely the best posing session I have ever had. I felt lean, confident, and as if all my poses were strong and tight. Jeff helped me with the minor details like my arm tightness and my breathing. I need some slight pivots to really show how thin my sides are, while still maintaining an erect and tight position. Posing is EXHAUSTING. But I need to feel REALLY good offstage so that the nerves settle on stage. I just hope I don't fall!

I'm holding fast to my diet...AND I JUST DISCOVERED NON-FAT COTTAGE CHEESE OH MY GOSH. I've NEVER eaten cottage cheese in my life and now I want to cry because I've just now found it when I could have been eating it all of prep. I'm obsessed! I've been eating some nice filet mignon's this week by saving all my fat calories and minimizing my avocado and Quest bar intake. Thats been so nice. I'm burnt out on prepping food--I have NO desire... so I have been buying grilled chicken breasts and hardboiled eggs at Whole Foods. Sides of chicken and steak at Chipotle too! It fits my macros and its delicious. Arctic Zero ice cream has been saving my life at the end of the night too! 150 cal and NO FAT. :) Delicious...though many people think it tastes like frozen whey protein (which it is!).

I found that I was getting so so so obsessed with this competition that it was affecting my health the past couple weeks. Now that I've refocused and started spending time with my friends rather than just the gym and my cat (HAHAHA!) I've found that I have the ability to set new goals for myself. I'm planning on getting my NASM certification so I can finally feel comfortable giving out diet plans and taking on clients on an online / in person basis. Be on the lookout for that, fit fam! My friends and I are also planning some trips (Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Vancouver?) which gives me something else to plan. And my coach and I are figuring out my peak week diet and how to reverse diet after (I only get Saturday night after the show and Sunday all day to gorge. Cheesecake factory=two pieces of cheesecake and a huge burger). Monday morning we go back to the drawing board aka the squat rack. Squatting twice a week til September / October. Gotta get those legs up. Clean bulk=more muscle=better package next show AND a stronger physique for powerlifting meets in the fall. Hoping for a 135 bench, 195 Squat, 275 Deadlift.

Feeling: Grateful. I have received such a ridiculous amount of support from all over. I was having a hard time and my friends and family picked me up and helped put my morale back together. I am gonna rock the stage--even if I get last place. I keep reminding myself= are your choices and actions conducive to your goals and aspirations? I want to inspire...but I'm finding that I am the one who is truly inspired but the love that has poured out from the mouths and hearts of those closest to me. Thanks so much to each and every one of you. Wish me luck!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

3 weeks out

Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 129 lbs. We are 3 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 12 solid weeks into cutting.

Today's Topic: "If It Fits Your Macros" and Absolute Joy
I did my photos a little different for this post because I had to steal my friend Amber's bathroom haha. Not my usual lighting set-up...but doesn't matter, had to get those photos done. Sorry I didn't post this yesterday, but I wrote this blog post then and now. I'm in Southern California visiting friends and family currently. I'm actually writing this as I wait for my Dads and my sister to get ready because we are all going out to dinner at Morton's tonight! I've planned my calories and macronutrients accordingly so that I can have: A 6 oz Filet Mignon (with no au jus or butter) for 340 calories: (16g F, 0g C, 48g P), steamed broccoli, steamed asparagus (Around 70 calories all together) and...wait for it...A BAKED POTATO (plain!)...which I will share with my sister so I'll only be eating half. I'm sure there will be brussel sprouts on the table too, so I may have a bite or two of those (I've eaten little to NO fat grams all day just so that I could fit this in). I practiced heated yoga this morning with my best friend (who I got to spend the last day or so with), and then I trained delts at the gym today. So after two strenuous workouts, careful calorie watching with a banana (sans PB2), a small chicken salad, and some Arctic Zero to tide me over until tonight... I am so ready to eat. This trip has been really really really successful in terms of my diet~ I never once took a bite of something I shouldn't have!

I'm all about the saying IIFYM (if it fits your macros). My coach and I discussed the potential of a cheat meal on certain weeks, but decided to opt out so that I could just do an IIFYM schedule. I eat extremely clean, nothing processed other than Quest Bars and the occasional Garden Patty. But sometimes, in order to remain sane, I'll let myself have a few ounces of frozen yogurt (always no sugar added and no fat) on a heavy lifting day because I need the carbs. Or maybe I will let myself try that Chicken Tikka Masala sauce--BECAUSE IT FITS MY MACROS--but then I realize that the spices mess with my indigestion and cause me to bloat for the next several days (this just happened last week--stupid decision on my part. I'll have to wait until after my show to have that sauce again). But you live and you learn and I'm not ever going to starve myself or prevent myself from having that extra piece of fruit or that one scoop more of Oatmeal if I can fit it in to my daily limit.

There is NO perfect diet for anyone and so it drives me nuts to see bikini competitors living solely off chicken and broccoli, oats, egg whites and protein. I've cut out ALL protein powder from my diet (other than the 1/3 scoop I put in my oats once or twice a week) because I didn't want my calories going to something that wasn't satiating or filling. I cut out greek yogurt from my diet recently because it was 200 calories I felt I could spend elsewhere in delicious steak (similar fat profile, but no carbs, and way more protein). I cut out vegetables for a little while to focus on quinoa and brown rice, and have only recently RE-incorporated them back because I felt like I missed them. It really is up to you to watch your body, figure out what you react well to and what seems to make you bloat, and then adjust. YES, I'm constantly checking MyFitnessPal, YES I'm a little obsessive about my macronutrient information...but I find it SO much fun to figure out a plan for myself every day. I used to prep all 6-8 meals for myself because that's what I heard other competitors did. Of course I still prepare enough chicken and turkey for several meals still, but now instead of pre-packaging my tupperwares, I decide in the moment what sounds good to me. It gives me that bit of freedom to keep me sane.

Feeling: So here is the Absolute Joy part of the blog post. Emotionally these past few days have been SO wonderful. I've been able to spend some blessed time with great friends and family here in Southern California...I've been able to refocus and get some much needed support. I realized this past few days how much I really MISS so many people...and hopefully I will be able to rekindle friendships that I had been neglecting. Sometimes I get way too focused on ME...and while it's good to be aware of your choices and actions, you need to take other people's lives and goals too! So, sorry my friends if I've been way to focused on MYSELF and not enough on spending time asking YOU how you're doing...that will change. But in any case, I have finally felt happy and CONFIDENT the past couple days. I'm sitting here in the San Diego airport now waiting for my plane and there are a couple of fitness competitors next to me: a female Figure and a male Physique. I know because they still have bits of their competition tan and because yesterday was NPC Southern California Championships...but anyway, it makes me SO excited to know that I'M NEXT! NPC San Jose is the next major's really here!! I cannot wait to just get out there on stage and strut my stuff. Hopefully lots of you can come watch me compete!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

3.5 weeks out

Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 130 lbs. We are 3.5 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 11.5 solid weeks into cutting.

Today's Topic: Gratefulness and Self-Sacrifice
Well this week didn't turn out as I had planned, but that's okay! Life surprises you and throws you through a loop just to show you how strong you are in the first place. The past few days have been a fantastic time for me to refocus and regroup, and remind myself that I'm ALMOST THERE. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. 12 years ago today I lost my cousin, a young man who we were so close to, to suicide. While it might be an easier pill to swallow to just post something like RIP, I miss you Randall, I think the fact that he took his own life DOES need to be mentioned from time to time because his story is an important one. He was so loved by everyone he came into contact with, even if he was being a little asshole...but we never saw the signs, and his impulsiveness led him to take away the most precious gift. I would do anything to see him again just for an hour.

But today, I am reminded of how grateful I should be for this life I am living. Through any kind of hardship, I have ALWAYS persevered. I've always made it to the other side even when the minutes dragged on like days, and I couldn't see any positive in a certain situation. But today, I know I've grown, changed, and matured as a young woman because the emotional hardships I went through in the past couple of weeks seem like minor blips on the radar. It's not even about using that negativity / emotional energy and repurposing it for fuel in the gym...because I just let the energy in those hardships wash out and away from me so I could start again, renewed and refreshed.

The blog post I wrote last time, when read in retrospect and after I got the input from several friends and Redditors, does indeed make me sound as if controlling my anxiety and doing personal spiritual work is like some kind of achievement. A Redditor recommended the idea of "Cutting Through the Spiritual Materialism" aka, cutting through all that self-help, meditation, zen, yoga, and so on and NOT letting it become a trap to feed my own ego. What I should REALLY be doing to help my soul, is to step outside myself and serve others. Even though this week didn't end up as I had planned, through the experiences I had over the past 6 weeks or so, I've learned that service is 10x more important than self (I'm so blessed to have met someone who really opened my eyes to that). I've always been "working on myself" and trying to be a better person. Focusing on yourself IS essential to growth, but true growth comes from giving away your time, energy and even money to other people--and doing it freely. How much more could I bless my own heart, if I don't bless the hearts of others? I don't want to just be a better person (internal, self-focused), I want to be a better human being (external, world-focused).

Feeling: Really good. Trusting my coach is going to get me to my final potential of LEAN before I compete. Tonight we are having a games night wherein I'm going to kill everyone in Settlers of Catan. Then tomorrow (Thursday) through Sunday morning I will be in Southern California! I'm so excited to see my family and friends; it's a trip that I've needed for a while. Plans to absolutely KILL it when I'm down there in terms of workouts / little bit more cardio / and a super clean diet. Already have my Quest bars, PB2 and preworkouts packed, and I'm (no joke) bringing my turkey tenderloin with me so that it thaws on the way hahaha. Broccoli, beans, apples, bananas, oats and my packages of quinoa/brown rice too. I have to get a separate bag just so I can check it all! Thank God Southwest allows you to check two bags! Dad set up a rental car for me down there too so it'll be nice to drive around freely and visit who I can. Tentative plan: Arrive in Orange County Thursday, drop off some stuff, head down to Murrieta Thursday night to see my mom. Travel back to Irvine/Orange County all day Friday. Workout Friday morning, see a few friends, maybe spend the night out there? Back down to Murrieta / San Diego Saturday. Leave Sunday morning.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

4 weeks out

Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 130 lbs. We are 4 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 11 solid weeks into cutting.

Today's Topic: Being Honest About Anxiety
Hi, my name is Ilyssa and I have anxiety attacks. My whole life I've struggled with them--especially in times of high stress--and I know they're coming when I feel as if I've had ten cups of coffee and cannot fall asleep without waking up a million times a night despite my feeling "sluggish" for a week or so leading up to them. My last major anxiety attack was July of last year. It happened in the middle of a restaurant, and I just couldn't catch my breath. So it's been a little while, and I've been doing good spiritual work since September in order to avoid such situations of over-exertion and lack of control. But, last Friday I was deadlifting with my coach and I felt unusually sluggish. I thought, "Well...maybe I'm just tired from this past week of essay writing and all-nighters." Went to a wedding last Saturday and felt fine, worked Sunday, Monday and felt tired but pretty good. Tuesday I didn't want to get out of bed and I watched a ton of Netflix to occupy my time--instead of yoga, instead of exercise--I just wanted to veg out. That is SO rare for me, and I think that's when I knew I felt off. Started my period way ahead of schedule (2 weeks early?) and was pretty positive that anxiety was going to creep up on me. Wednesday I toughed through it at work, but Thursday and yesterday I had so many waves wash over me that this morning I woke up and almost cried. Why does this happen to me? Why do I let myself be the victim of over-worrying and why do I invest so much negative energy in over-analyzing my situation? Over-achiever. Straight A student. 3 sport athlete. Graduate student with an MA by 23. Aspiring Fitness Model. I have to be leaner. Stronger. Better. But, do I? What's the benefit in being wound so tightly that I explode if provoked?

So here I am, back at the Sedona Method my therapist taught me a long time ago. My emotions are SEPARATE from me. I am NOT my emotions. I am not Anxious. That would be personifying and giving life to something that is not alive. A part of me feels anxious. So what do I do with that? Well for me, today, I felt as though I had to go through some sun salutations and vinyasa flows. I woke up, I moved through chaturanga dandasana, Warrior 1, open-palmed Warrior 2, and Reverse Warrior. Both sides, a couple times. Had coffee with a fantastic friend of mine who I've missed dearly (she's gonna be a psychiatrist!). Then went to practice and deadlifted AND overhead pressed. Came home, called my Dad and then my brother. Both of them have dealt with depression and anxiety for years. Depression in particular runs in my family--I lost a cousin to suicide, and my grandma and great uncles have all had severe depression. My brother has been clean and sober for 2 years because of Christ's love and rescue, and my Dad has been free from major depression since he came out around seven years ago. My Dad was really honest with me and suggested that it might be helpful to get me on some anti-anxiety medication to see how much of my issue is chemical and how much of it is situational. I don't see myself as sick or having a disease. But I do know that with my genetics, and my need for control, that it's best to be hyper-aware (how ironic) of my anxiety so that I can better learn to see the signs. Something my brother said today that really impacted me was that once he stopped TRYING to fix his anxiety and depression, and just realized that God has already FREED him from it, and that he just needed to acknowledge and step out in faith knowing that he was free, that's when peace really fell over him. My brother said that he would, at first, find moments of peace but then worry that the fear and anxiety would come back...and so began the cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies. I have no need for that negativity in my life. Writing these things down now is such an affirmation of the place I've come from and the place my heart now resides. Open. Willing. Free.

Feeling: Better. Spent time with two of my best guy friends tonight, ate some wholesome food and went to watch Fast & the Furious 6. Missed those boys dearly. They always cheer me up! Really spent some time breathing through my circumstance, calming my heart and mind, and using the comedy of the day (they do this stupid dance that makes me wanna pee myself) to help me focus on the joy I have inside of me.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

4.5 weeks out

Height: 5'10". Current Weight: 130 lbs. We are 4.5 weeks out from NPC Bikini-San Jose Fit Expo. 10.5 solid weeks into cutting.

Today's Topic: Femininity and Muscle
This post may be a little more negative that usual, but I promised I would write about both the good and the bad on this blog. Also, sorry for the weird lighting in the was cloudy and then sunny and the light was just NOT working with me...hence the multiple lightings.

When I started this journey, I wanted to lose weight and regain the confidence I once had in my body when I was athletic and healthy. I had made it a goal for myself last year--a New Years Resolution of sorts--to get back on the fitness bandwagon and get into the best shape of my life. But it wasn't until September of last year, and a couple days after my 22nd birthday that I realized how far I'd let myself go in my self-wallowing and food-worshipping. I gorged myself because I thought "I deserve this...I work hard." I didn't take care of my body because I had come to grips with my "curviness" and had made justifications for my love handles. Because I was too lazy to think about going to the gym, I made excuses why I stopped practicing yoga and stopped running or doing P90X. But September 29th, 2012 I reached out to an old friend who showed me the ropes when it came to calorie tracking and MyFitnessPal. I ate around 1450 calories for the next 2 months straight and lost a whopping 18 pounds. It was then that I realized that a half-marathon was not going to be in the cards for me...throughout those two months with the motivation on Instagram and in the gym, I realized that lifting (and the powerlifting movements specifically) were going to be my ticket to the body I always wanted. I know that muscular feminine bodies are not for everyone, but the backlash I received almost immediately from anyone outside of the fitness community was a bit overwhelming--"You're going to look manly." "You're going to look so bulky." "Muscle on a woman is not attractive." But I pushed on and persevered and now after 8 months of serious dedication to this lifestyle, I'm loving my body more and more every day. I have a good friend who I send progress pics to who always replies with the snarky "put down the weights, so bulky, so manly" just to point out how FAR from manly I do look. I'm still curvy, I'm still feminine, I'm just lean.

With that being said, even after months of my posts online and changes in public (and of course in private in my heart) I am still surprised by some of the negative comments I get from those who either don't understand what I'm doing, don't care to understand, or just want to feel better about themselves by shooting me down. I still get the comments, ALL THE TIME, like "Wow, maybe you should eat something." Are you joking me? I eat 6-8 meals a day, 1900 calories a day, of good, clean, whole foods. NO I'm not going to go out and feast on fries and milkshakes and desserts...because I don't treat my body like a waste basket anymore. Eating to SPOIL myself is NOT conducive to my goals and aspirations. And while I appreciate the sentiments behind it--I know people are just trying to say that I look good now and I should just "treat myself"...I don't see eating horrible food as a way to "treat myself". I see less cardio as a way to treat myself. I see avocado, or that extra Quest bar, or maybe a couple ounces of fat free frozen yogurt as a way to treat myself. I see food DIFFERENTLY now. And I'm not going to sit here and say I will never have a piece of cake again or that after I walk off stage when I'm done my show I won't go have an epic cheat meal before I return, QUICKLY, to a clean diet. But that will be a RARE circumstance that only comes once I really should reward myself for having the courage to compete in this competition. This is a lifestyle. I don't starve myself. I love my body and want to take care of it the right way. Here's an example of something I had for lunch yesterday. Keep in mind, I eat 6-8 mini meals like this a day. Veggie Patty with hummus, egg whites, and sweet potato with cinnamon.

Recently I was explaining to a group of colleagues what I love about lifting and how it makes me feel. I was describing the exhilaration of getting a pump and watching the vascularity begin...first my hands, then in my forearms, and then all the way up to my delts (which are becoming more and more striated!). Watching the body lean out and really PUMP that blood through your veins is such a crazy's addicting. Anyway, one person interrupted me and literally said "Ew. That's disgusting. Gross. I run, but wow, that's gross." I mean, okay. Maybe blood and veins freak you out? Maybe what I'm saying doesn't make sense to you? But for this person to openly call me / what I like disgusting? I don't know. It's discouraging to say the least, but I was explaining to a friend last night that it's this type of crap you just need to shrug off like a bad coat. Or, perhaps use it as fuel for the next workout. Not everyone is going to understand or support you, but you're only responsible for your own heart and do what works for you and don't let the bastards get you down.

Feeling: Bloated... wah. We need to get the bloating situation under control. Hopefully a few days off (leaving for Santa Cruz today) will be a good time to focus on rejuvenation and some dehydration. Saturday will be 4 weeks out...that's when we will make the big decisions for the show!