Failing to Believe in the Women Marines

I was hit on Facebook yesterday by someone saying they saw me on CNN…obviously that caught my attention so I started Googling to find the story.  I found the news story along with a plethora of other headlines that have me extremely disappointed and saddened for the next generation of Female Marines who are trying to be trail blazers.  I have been disappointed too many times by Marine Corps Leadership and I’m too far along in my own career in the Marine Corps to feel personally hurt by these headlines:

” Most female U.S. Marines can’t do minimum standard three pullups amid debate over combat roles for women”

“The Marines Have Decided That Women Are Too Wimpy To Have To Do Pullups”

“Marines back off pullup requirement for women after many fail”

But it does break my heart for all the young women out there who are busting their butts to meet and rise beyond the standards, like the women who completed the School of Infantry.

When the ALMAR 046/12 was released announcing the change to the PFT for women; I was ecstatic but I know a few women who weren’t too happy about it, but they quickly rolled up their sleeves and started to get ready for the change.  It’s not easy to be a Female Marine.  We know what we signed up for…if you didn’t, then you aren’t going to make it – it’s just the way it is. Women Marines joined the Marine Corps to be challenged, to be part of the best and we don’t expect to be treated differently.  Don’t know how many battles I’ve fought in order to not be treated differently. Enough to be exhausted by it.

The fact that the decision was reversed based on statistics from Recruit Training is even more disheartening.  Unless those young girls did what I did and started to hit the gym as soon as they decided to be Marines, there is no way they were going to be able to do pull-ups in boot camp.  It is a fact that women are weaker in their upper bodies…it takes a lot of training to build the necessary strength but that’s doesn’t mean we don’t expect them to do it. Plenty have and are doing it!

I despise the flex arm. The stronger your upper body is…the harder the stupid flex arm becomes. I want to retain the option to do either or; flex arm or pull ups.  What better way to keep collecting data then to give either options and see what Female Marines in THE FLEET (actual women who have already earned the title) decide to do. I believe in my sisters in arms – I know they will rise to the challenge.  It’s the reason they became Marines – to be challenged, to do what’s hard, to be best…it’s not fair to take that away from them by dropping the standards.

I am disappointed but I also know the headlines will go away and Female Marines will keep fighting the good fight like they always have…this is a setback but it won’t defeat us.  The fight is definitely more up to the younger generations but I am totally here to provide the supporting fires!!

A Diet I can Share

Last year, as I was closing in on finalizing my transformation by stepping on stage for the first time in my life, after losing 50 lbs, a lot of people were asking about my diet. Note that when I say “diet” I mean it in its intended form: the sum of the food consumed by an organism or group.

I was extremely hesitant about sharing my diet and for the most part I didn’t.  I’m sure people probably thought I was being evasive or selfish by not sharing but the truth was, I didn’t want anyone getting on such a strict diet as the one I was on…unless they themselves were looking to compete.  It was a competitor’s diet.  A diet that was quite frankly not exactly healthy and certainly not sustainable.

Funny thing is…although I realized it was not sustainable, I definitely tried to maintain it.  It turned out impossible to maintain as the stress in my life increased; I found myself slipping constantly and overeating.  I started to gain weight but worst then that, I completely lacked energy.  I felt so drained.  I blamed my work and the stress I was under for the way I felt.  I was also losing my hair at a rapid rate.

I can’t remember how the first conversation happened, but I found myself having conversations about nutrition with two Marines in the office where I work.  They’re on a starch/whole plant diet and while I couldn’t possibly imagine having that much startch/carbs in my life – I was listening to what they had to say.  They kept bringing in food and showing me what I could be eating.

It also happens that one of my best friends came to visit around the same time, and she noticed how incredibly drained I was.  She made some recommendations herself about making changes to my diet.

I knew I needed to make some changes.  I was just not looking forward to making them because I knew it would require a lot of time and effort on my part.  I also didn’t want to gain anymore weight which I figured would happen with eating extra starch.  My hesitations were all trumped by how crappy I was feeling and all the hair I kept losing, so I committed to changing the way I ate.  I spent a lot of money getting all the new spices and food I needed.  Along the way, I discovered I’m starting to enjoy my early mornings in the grocery stores and my time in the kitchen cooking.

I’ve been on this new diet now for about 3 weeks and it’s been INCREDIBLE.  My energy has skyrocketed!! I get to eat cereal again!  Actually, I even get to eat muffins (which I made).  I’m eating fruits, veggies, bread…I’m making all kinds of new recipes.  It’s taking a lot of time to plan and making all this new food (for the week) but it’s worth it.

My taste buds haven’t been this happy and satisfied in YEARS!!   In a nutshell, I’ve taken out meat, most dairies, and all oils from my diet. I’m still having eggs sometimes, skim milk in my coffee and cereal and I’m also still taking whey protein.  Otherwise, I’m eating veggies, legumes, beans, various starches and fruits.

I’m not craving meat.  Granted, I was having the same old chicken, tilapia and grass fed red meat prepared the same exact way meal after meal…so not much there to miss.

Now, there is so much more flavor and variety to what I’m eating.

I will gladly share this diet with anyone interested in trying it out.  I recommend reading The Engine 2 Diet and the Starch Solution.

Eating a plant base, starch diet is the healthiest way a person can eat…to both maintain a healthy body weight AND provide your body with everything it needs to be the healthiest it can be to prevent most diseases.  It’s also the most sustainable diet I’ve ever followed.

This isn’t about being a vegetarian since plenty of vegetarians are also unhealthy.  This is about eating what is best for my body.  I’m not saying I won’t ever have meat again either. I just know when/if I eat meat, I’m putting fat and cholesterol in my body…much like when I still eat eggs and skim milk.

My goal is to shed the 10 lbs I put on – I have 7 lbs to go. I know I can do it without actually starving myself or ending up feeling run down.

I can finally EAT FOOD I love on this diet!!  No cheat meals.  No over indulging. No more unhealthy relationship with food.

I still prep all my food on the weekend for the week.  I still eat 5-6 smaller meals through the day.  I still keep my protein intake higher than what the books recommend…goes with wanting to maintain my muscle mass.  I still drink 1-2 gallons of water a day.

You can see pictures of the food I’m cooking on Facebook.  You can find excellent recipes to start making yourself on Dr. McDougall’s website: http://www.drmcdougall.com/newsletter/recipeindex.html

I’m not sure what this new diet means in the grand scheme of things…meaning if I want to step on stage again.  What I do know RIGHT NOW is that I feel much BETTER, I have more energy and I’m loving what I’m eating.  That’s what my life and body are calling for at the moment.

Shaking Off The Sluggishness

Since this was my first year competing, I had never experienced going from competition mode to offseason mode – the transition was relatively easy and as my muscles became layered by a sheet of fat…I learned to live with it.  It was awesome to not be hungry all the time. At my leanest I was 115, at my heaviest in the “offseason” I hit 131 (I’m 5’3”). I continued to train 5-6 days a week to include low level cardio 4-5 times a week. I alternated between training heavy and training with very high reps but had decent rest periods and rarely elevated my heart rate.

I had no idea how sluggish I was in fact getting/becoming until I transitioned from “offseason” to prep mode 15 days ago.  I also forgot (never would have thought I would have forgotten so easily) how much dieting and being hungry sucks.

Not having really increased my heart rate to any significant levels in months…basically equaled my getting “out of shape” at least cardiovascularily (that’s not a word but you know what I mean) speaking. I’ve been re-integrating more HIIT training into my training in order to mix things up and it’s been challenging.

The weight is coming off slower than I expected and I find myself suffering from the “I’m dieting so why don’t I look like my shredded self yet.” I’ve come to realize that when you’re hungry you’re a lot more critical of yourself and what results/gains you should be seeing.  When you’re not hungry/dieting – you don’t have expectations of what your body should look like…you’re just happy you don’t look too fat.

It has taken me the last 15 days to basically get my head back in the game. I didn’t realize mentally I had been “taken out of the game” but somehow I did. Bodybuilding is a mental game, it is those who are mentally more focused and committed who become Pros and excel in this sport. I’m happy that my other professional goals are requiring a leaner version of me and I’m getting a big head start to my 2013 prep. Will be keeping a more shredded look all year in 2013…to do things differently this go round.

Hey!  It’s all about trial and error. You have to figure out what makes you feel the best and what makes you the most competitive.

P.S. My pictures and videos from my 2012 prep – HUGE source of motivation right now so definitely recommend documenting your journey. You’ll be very glad you did.

Sponsor: George & Co

Today I went in to finally get my hair done again…I had way too much gray showing!  I was also overdue to get some pictures with George in order to write this blog post and properly “Thank him” for his sponsorship for the Louisiana Championships where I qualified for Nationals.

When I first moved to New Orleans and was searching for a hair dresser, I asked Jenny, a friend and fellow Marine, who was doing her hair.  She told me she went to George at a Salon on the West Bank.  Although I lived in the French Quarter at the time (now in the Irish Channel) I decided based on her recommendation to give George a chance and as the saying goes… “The rest is history”.  George has been doing my hair now for almost 5 years and has become a good friend. 

George runs George & Co located at 3030 Halsey Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70114. It’s a full hair and nail service salon with a fabulously friendly (and entertaining) staff.  The way I am treated at the places I frequent is extremely important to me.  I don’t like to be kept waiting; I don’t like feeling like the person helping me is rushed or that I’m just “another” customer.  I never have to wait when I go see George and he always has ample time carved out to take care of me with undivided attention. I really like the way I am welcomed, treated and appreciated at George & Co.

We have changed my hairstyle and hair color over the years and George always makes me look beautiful. I definitely recommend heading over to George & Co and letting them take good care of you.

A Life Measured In Weeks

If you are a bodybuilder, in a relationship with one, part of the family of one or friends with a bodybuilder than you are used to the constant weekly countdowns.  Bodybuilders are pretty much always XX to X weeks out from their next competitions. As it so happens, I’m now 12 weeks out from Nationals in Atlanta.

There are many misunderstood aspects to this sport and certainly many weird habits and rituals mere regular gym goers just don’t understand 😉 But there are also many side benefits and pleasures to being a bodybuilder; one of the most important aspects is the dire magnitude of making EACH AND EVERYDAY COUNT.

The Inside Scoop on the Weekly Countdowns

I wouldn’t be surprised if most of my friends and facebook followers who aren’t bodybuilders find my countdowns annoying, which is why, I find myself compelled today to explain not only why they are critical to the sport I partake in, but what a positive impact they have on my everyday life.

Clearly the type of physiques you see on stage at a bodybuilding competition are not made overnight. It takes time and lots of hard work to create the master pieces put on a display.  It’s also a very calculated process; in order to “come in” (show up on stage) looking a certain way; there is a lot of back planning involved hence the weekly countdowns.  Most countdowns start 16 weeks out but depending on what type of offseason shape a competitor maintains he or she might not need 16 weeks.

While it doesn’t matter how many weeks out the countdown is started, it’s crucial to start a countdown because changes need to be tracked very closely and milestones along the way must be hit in order to have the ultimate desired physique for the stage.

The weekly countdown is also divided into stages and each stage is very important to the final results. What this means is that when a bodybuilder starts a countdown to a competition; their physique will go through the most changes and transformation. This is why everyday counts – the outcome of everyday leads to meeting the weekly goals or not meeting those weekly goals.  You can’t afford to fall behind and it’s always best to be ahead or right on point.

When Everyday Counts

When what you do everyday counts towards meeting your goal; that is achieving the physique you want for the stage it also plays a part in your life.  Or at least it definitely does in my life. It’s a very strong mindset that gets created.  Every decision of how hard you train, when you get your cardio, the right and proper consumption of food and supplements and getting the right amount of sleep…etc, makes a world of difference.  Just like what you decide to do or not do today have a huge impact on all your other life goals.

You can watch, observe and manage the progress of all your goals the same way you track and work for the changes in your physique. Week after week when I send my coach pictures of how my physique has changed, I also take account of how my life has changed.  What else have I accomplished this past week? What I do everyday counts not only in what my physique will become but how much my business will grow, how much I will improve as a person, the money I make, and the people I will impact.

In 12 weeks from now, it’s not just about being ready for Nationals; it’s about having made everyday count for everything in my life so I not only have the best physique I’ve ever had but the BEST LIFE!

So I love me the weekly countdowns.  Makes me track all of my progress and makes me realize how much each day matters. Also makes me realize how FAST it all goes by.

Deep Tissue Hell is Heaven

Next time I will get a video of me screaming, jerking and sweating my @$s off on the massage table because it’s really hard for people to understand how painful a real deep tissue massage actually is. My misery did not however, bother Little Man one bit.  I was concerned at first that perhaps he would attack Arrid (massage guru) because he would assume that Arrid was hurting me.  Arrid assured me that he’s been around plenty of dogs of all sizes and temperament and none had ever attacked him. As a matter of fact, he said that the dogs find it to be rewarding to watch.  Little Man couldn’t even be bothered to watch, there I was screaming and jerking around and he stayed on the couch sleeping and snoring away.

Arrid is by far the best deep tissue massage therapist (guru) to ever work on me. It’s no wonder football players, other professional athletes and movie stars fly him around the world to work on them. When we started, unlike other therapists, he didn’t want me to tell him where any of my “problems areas” were – he said he would find them…which he did and then some.

While lying on my back, he moved my right arm across my chest and my elbow didn’t go any further than my nose.  I told him I had elbow/joint problems…he didn’t reply back – he showed me that wasn’t it. Besides my triceps being tight as a mother…he went into my armpits and lats.  The pain was unreal but by the time he was done…my elbow reached down to my left ear; where it’s suppose to naturally reach.

Parts of my body feel like I got hit my a Mack truck yesterday but I’m not tight or in knots in the areas he worked on.

I had a good chat with Arrid after he was done to learn more about what is obviously an amazing gift and really enjoyed getting to know him.  Besides doing incredible work to help me stay healthy and get me stronger; he provided me with so much joy from listening to what is without a doubt a love, passion and calling on his life. He was a real inspiration.  Because it so rare to be around people who truly LOVE what they do when you are blessed enough to encounter someone who does – it’s just a jolt of feel good emotions and energy.

It’s true he had to center me back on the massage table a few times since I was clearly trying to get away and my neighbor might have thought I was getting slowly tortured but there’s no doubt I will have Arrid work on me again.  Getting this type of deep tissue work is priceless towards avoiding injuries, continuing to maintain full range of motion and unblocking anything that might be interfering with perfect blood flow to the muscles.