Lifestyle Prior To Change
My beginning measurements were actually in my car when it had gotten stolen. In April, 2009, the boot camp program I had been attending had calculated in one year I was down an overall 50 inches total...the equivalent of 4ft!
Moved to NC in 2010 and gained 25 pounds back from 155 to 179 pounds. In January, 2011, I hired my trainer Don Bernoudy to help me as I began an article/project in Beverly Hills Child Magazine called “Mommy in Training”. The goal is to get that “bikini competitors physique.” Since January I have lost 30 pounds and 30 inches overall.
What was your lifestyle prior to your transformation?
I actually have an eating “issue.” Not that I ate too much, but thru years of dieting I no longer knew how to eat. When I was pregnant I actually feared getting hungry because I didn’t know what and how to eat properly. I believe this is the very reason I did get so big. My lifestyle wasn’t so much sedentary. I was working 12 hours a day on my feet doing hair, going out dancing, and partying in the evening.
Poor diet, starvation, not enough sleep slowed my metabolism down. It caught up with my body medically, my thyroid became out of whack being diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I don’t believe the underactive thyroid contributed to the weight. My “lifestyle” - the havoc I put upon my body caused everything to become completely unbalanced including my thyroid.
What was your low point or turning point?
My turning point was losing everything. In 2008 my husband and I separated. I became instantly a single mom. He moved out of state due to job relocation and our home had been foreclosed on; I had to claim bankruptcy just a “bad country song of events”. It was a “reality slap”. I began to “wake up” realizing that the only thing I did have control over in life was me, my actions, my behaviors.
I needed to be healthy for my daughter to help “us” get thru what we were going thru during that time. I honestly know from experience that getting fit, and becoming physically stronger is directly linked to mental and emotion strength as well. I don’t know how I would have gotten thru what I did without taking that one hour a day for my physical/“overall” well being.
Were there any unique challenges or circumstances that made your transformation particularly difficult?
Money and injury. Even though I was extremely limited on funds, whatever money I did earn went to my fitness program right off the top. It may sound selfish BUT I let absolutely nothing stand in the way of me getting healthy. It was a life necessity for me.
People who are obese don’t tend to see their health as a liability. We just look in the mirror and say, “I’m fat but I’ll live.” By the time I was 30 years old I had a stack of medical bills 3 inches thick due to weight related issues/injuries that were affecting my ability to work. I needed to get healthy to save my career most importantly my life.
In 2009 I slipped on wet grass doing a burpee injuring my hip, glute and hamstring which haven’t been the same since. The injury has caused me to slow down tremendously. Currently, I’m not able to run long distances. My workouts have to be tailored around it. It's very frustrating mentally but I will not let it stop me. As my daughter says, “slow & steady wins the race.”
What was your transformation timeline?
- Transformation Start: Early Jan. 2008 I was 234 pounds. I lost 10 pounds on my own then joined a nutrition based weight loss program to help jumpstart my weight loss. I was 224 pounds when I began that program. April, 2008, 212 pounds. Joined a boot camp program that changed my life. I found a style of training that I loved and that I would stick to.
- Milestone: “Showing up” for the boot camp program. In April 2008 couldn’t complete my one mile assessment. I quit at 18:20. I couldn’t do one push-up during the timed assessment and could only to 15 sit ups in one minute.
- Milestone: April, 2009. With pulled muscles in the hip, glute and hamstring I was able to complete my timed mile at 9:16!
- Milestone: Doing a cartwheel in front of my daughter and her entire gymnastic team. I will never forget her face as she ran over to me, hugged me saying “Mama, you can do it.” One of my greatest moments fitness wise, because my child saw the benefit of my hard work. I hadn’t done anything like that since my teens.
- Milestone: Being able to say today, my body hits plateau at about every 20 pounds. How many people can say that like “it’s just a matter of fact”. LOL
- Transformation End: I am still in process to achieving my goal. My goal is to have that “bikini competitor physique” and to even possibly one day get on that stage.
Cassandra's Training And Cardio Approach
What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?
I joined a military style boot camp program that was for one hour, 5 days a week. It focused primarily on old school calisthenics using your own body weight as resistance. Lots of plyometrics, sprints, long distance running and drills.
Currently, my trainer Don Bernoudy who served in the US Military has incorporated that “military boot camp style training” that my body responds so well too, along with weighted resistance for a grueling 1 hour session. Mon. Wed. Fri.
He will mix up boot camp drills with various exercises depending on the day such as; uphill intervals on treadmill (HIIT training), outdoor sprints, weighted leap frogs, weighted stair runs, with jump squats, jump lunges, burpees adding a push-ups with weighted row, including rounds of overhead dumbbell presses, squat chest presses with a weighted plate, calf raise with upright row, leg presses, etc.
It’s not a “set” Mon. Wed. Fri. I do 3 sets of 12 reps. schedule. Since I still have a good amount of body fat that I need to burn to achieve my goal, the fact that my body adapts quickly and I get bored just as fast he has to constantly keep both my “mind and body” challenged. With this type of training I never get bored. I get the results at an even pace which keeps injuries and burn out at bay making it an overall lifestyle change.
Please detail your cardio approach during your transformation?
I do cardio 5 times a week. On the days I train with Don he incorporates drills/full body exercises that increase my heart rate during our one hour session. Later that afternoon I will typically try to get at least another 20 minute session in of cardio that day. On Tuesday and Thursday I’ve been keeping it light due to my hip injury. I do a 2 mile run and about 30 min of PiYo (Pilates, Yoga combo) to help strengthen and stretch the hip flexor and the large muscles of the legs.
Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- Consistency, consistency, and consistency. I learned that working out 3 days a week, moderate exercise for 1 hour, would never work for my body. Regardless, if I was a beginner or not my body requires consistent 5 days IN A ROW of activity. I needed to create a habit; habit is something we habitually do. I see this works for my clients I train as well. If you think about it even our US Military exercises daily.
- Living a fit lifestyle can not only save your life physically, but also mentally, emotionally and even spiritually as well as you become more in tune with who you are on all levels and what you are capable of. I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten thru what I endured otherwise. I am very appreciative of everyone who helped me get to where I am today and who never gave up on me nor let me give up on myself.
- I learned that you have to constantly switch things up. The human body is a machine capable of doing whatever we tell it to do, adapting to just about any condition, we have to confuse it before it gets to comfortable.
How are you currently training, and has your training changed since the completion of your transformation?
My training has become more intense as I’ve lost 85 pounds thru consistently working out over a 3 year time frame. I had a 25 pound regain during that time in 2010 from moving to a NC from CA during the winter. I wasn’t use to being indoors in a winter climate as my workouts had always been outdoors.
I also had the stress of a cross country move, a complete lifestyle and climate change. I joined gyms, worked with a couple trainers, a couple of studios with no prevail. I really had to find something or someone who trained similar to that “military style” of training as well as someone who had experience training clients that have lost extreme amounts of weight due to exercise adaptation.
That was crucial to me because I found that nothing was working to get rid of the added pounds. The scale was slowly going back up because my body will not respond to a workout program designed for the average 5’1", 150 pound overweight woman. My body has a lot of muscle and had been non-stop training, so on the scale I was overweight but my body was “fit”.
Cassandra's Diet And Nutrition Approach
What was your diet/nutrition approach during your transformation?
Initially I had stuck with the nutrition program’s food that I had been on. The first 4 months slowly incorporated real foods back into my diet. Once I did, a bigger set back was being prescribed the drug Adderall for ADHD which inhibits hunger. I would find myself skipping meals again reverting back to old patterns.
Coming off the Adderall I found the Eat Clean book by Tosca Reno, practiced it’s principals, but still was on a slow gain. In January, 2011, Don changed my diet based on the principals of clean eating and eating right for your blood type. My body responded the best with those combined principals, I felt stronger physically.
In May, 2011, I hired Nichole Ohrablo to oversee my nutrition, helping me with meal planning ideas to teach me “how to eat” as my body is training towards this specific goal. Nichole has been a competitor. She loves to cook and is so creative with eating clean. She has really taught me a lot.
Can you provide us with a sample daily eating plan:
- Breakfast: I change things up daily depending on how I feel that morning, from either 1 cup oatmeal with ½ banana or egg whites with uncured turkey bacon, to protein waffles with blueberries and raw honey. Those are my main 3 breakfast of choice meals.
- Post workout: BSN Lean Dessert protein shake with 1/2 cup cherries or another frozen fruit of choice. 2-4 oz of Lily of the Dessert Aloe Gel mixed in my shake.
- Lunch: 4 oz chicken breast, 1 cup brown rice, 2 cups of varies vegetables.
- Mid Afternoon Snack: BSN Lean Dessert shake chocolate, 2-4 oz of Lily of the Dessert Aloe Gel mixed with 2 teaspoons instant coffee mixed in my shake for a pick me up to trick myself into thinking it’s a blended iced mocha. LOL.
- Dinner: 4oz fish/chicken or turkey, 1 cup brown rice or quinoa, 2 cups green vegetables.
- Evening Snack: Plain Greek yogurt, sliced strawberries, a smidge of Stevia sweetener mixed into the yogurt.
Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?
Not eating enough, skipping meals. I think a lot of women tend to focus on cutting calories or cutting carbs, but really don’t know what “numbers” their bodies need to hit to build muscle while burning fat.
Please list 3 things you learned about diet & nutrition during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- Food is your body’s fuel. Don't deprive your body. Building a healthier body is all in the mathematics and it’s not just about cutting calories. 1500 calories of junk verses 1500 calories of healthy food is going to effect your workout performance differently, your body differently based on your protein, carbs and fat ratios as well. I just watched a program where this 400+ pound woman was gravely malnourished. We know she was consuming massive amounts of calories, but obviously not the right kind.
- Your body needs carbs, the right kinds of carbs. My biggest pet peeve is when people come to me and say I’m doing the all protein diet. It’s just not reality your body can’t be on such a program for an extended amount of time and then what?
- Liquids & Sodium. I learned to be careful of how much coffee I was consuming daily since it would cause me to drink less water. It also can dehydrate me, cancelling out the water I was putting in, as wells as creating higher levels of cortisol throughout my body during the day.
Sodium…to be aware of the amount of sodium that is in your food; I had a client bring me a shake from a “weight loss” clinic that had over 480mg of sodium in it! It blew my mind that they were selling these to clients that were trying to lose weight.
For the person looking for numbers on the scale to drop and fat loss, sodium can play loads of mind tricks such as water retention as well as feeling and looking bloated losing any appearance of definition. It can totally discourage a person into thinking that they are not getting results when really their sodium level is too high for their body. I try to stay at about 1500mg a day for my body. Anything above that and the scale reflects it as pounds gain and pitting edema.
Did you allow yourself cheat meals?
Totally! This is life, people have birthdays, weddings, you hang out with friends on a Friday night, happy hour, holidays etc... It’s unrealistic not to have occasional cheat foods. I believe you stifle your efforts if you focus solely on perfection 24/7.
What supplements did you use during your transformation?
Chorella, Tonalin CLA, a multi-vitamin, fish oil, vitamin E. I’m big on aloe gel, hoping not to have too much loose skin so far so good, zinc, iron, and Oxy-Elite.
Advice For Others
What are your best 3 tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?
- Never give up!
- Make the commitment of getting fit for life by making that your #1 priority! Yep I said it: #1. If you don’t have your health, your life, then your loved ones don’t have you. Your overall wellbeing needs to come before everyone else.
- Hire a trained professional or get involved in a regular group fitness program. No matter how bad we “want it”, being accountable to another human being will always push you harder. I would NEVER put myself nor PUSH myself the way my trainer does. Often times we don’t know what our own capabilities are. I am constantly finding out during workouts with my trainer that I can do more then I ever thought I could.
How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?
Living a healthier life style has become a habit. I don’t desire to binge on junk food or to go out and party all night consuming alcohol, smoking etc. Becoming obese was a bad “habit” I allowed myself to develop. I “habitually” would come home from work plop on the couch, complain about my aches/pains, make dinner, eat, plop right back on the couch watch TV etc.
Now, I feel “lost” in a sense without my daily workout. Nutrition wise I reach for food that will help my body’s performance. It’s a fuel source not a binge or pleasure source. My mindset has completely changed for the better.
I would tell a person losing focus that nobody is going to do it for you. You need to pull from the inside of your soul all those dreams that you envision for yourself focusing on that best person you truly know that your meant to be. Let those dreams outweigh your fears, allowing that person to surface.
We were not put here on earth to suffer or self loath. I would tell them to pursue that greater purpose with clear and precise focus that that stirring in their hearts…it's there for a reason and because it's there, anything is achievable.
More From Cassandra Wycko
What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?
My life now is about making better choices in every area of my life to be in control of my behavior, to help others. A lot of the times it goes deeper then just a weight issue, especially for women. I am a Christian woman, a mother, a cosmetologist, a beauty expert, NASM certified personal trainer, ACE certified group fitness trainer, a writer, and my life now is about combining all these elements within my business TML Beauty & Fitness to help other women whose issues go beyond weight. Daily I strive to be a step closer physically, mentally, emotionally andspiritually to where I need to be in order to be able to reach out to others on a bigger forum, sharing my journey, my testimony.
What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?
The above is what motivates me to keep improving. To share my story, to help change lives, to help people “pull themselves” out of the slump they maybe in and get them moving in all areas of their life. If most knew my whole story what I’ve been thru, what I’ve done, who I was and who I am today, many I think could relate on some level look at me and say if she did it with all of that nonsense/baggage so can I.
Anything else you would like to share?
Be mindful; be mindful of people who will try to lead you astray from your goals. This is typically friends or loved ones. They sometimes sabotage unknowingly fearing you will become a different person leaving them behind. You very well may if these are not the right relationships for you; typically they are not because you find they have been stifling your progress.
Be mindful of setbacks, roadblocks will appear making success difficult. I try my hardest to reverse the feeling of defeat by telling myself, this setback is here because I am getting closer to my goals. It means I am on the right track then I’m able to embrace those roadblocks. Lastly, surround yourself with positive people with the same or similar goals. They help you see what “real support” is, they help redirect you past those roadblocks and most importantly can remind you to keep your eyes on the prize.
How can people contact you?
People can contact me either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook under TML Beauty & Fitness.
Wow!!! You are an inspiration, and a Wonder Woman!
Wow,you are such an inspiration! What an amazing story,
You look so beautiful and healthy.well done.
Girl, you look great! Don't let anybody bring you down!
This is a COMMENDABLE effort.
Good Job Cassandra, very proud of you.
What an inspiring story! That's very heart warming that she could turn her "bad country song" around and offer her experience and help to other women! She should get a big "YOU GO GIRL!", great job!
I also love that she has her head on straight about training, and nutrition.