Lifestyle Prior To Change
Prior to changing my lifestyle, I was convinced that I did not have time to go to the gym. My days were like many others. I woke up and cursed my shrinking wardrobe. I ate very few meals throughout the day and ‘working out’ was not a priority. I worked 8-10 hours and usually ate what was offered at work. I have always worked in the education field and found there was no shortage of cakes, bagels, juices, cupcakes, and other treats. I convinced myself that the people in ‘those fitness magazines’ worked out for hours and were genetically gifted. I thought, “If I had someone to cook for me, train me, and I did not have to work full-time, I could look like that, too.”
While at home, my meals usually consisted of meat, a carbohydrate, and vegetables. But my portion sizes were large due to the lack of eating throughout the day and my preparation included a lot of extra fat and calories from butters and oils. Even when I made intermittent decisions to improve my diet, I was largely unsuccessful because of my sedentary lifestyle and diet. When my husband, then fiancé, entered the picture my poor habits multiplied. One of our favorite rituals was to sit down large plates of biscuits, butter, and syrup. I went from 120 pounds to 185 pounds over the course of several years. Interestingly, I always kept a gym member. I would visit the gym intermittently, but would give up after weeks of marathon training sessions when I did not see the results that I wanted. The cycle continued to years, each time I would return to the gym heavier and more frustrated.
What Was Your Turning Point?
It was March, 2007, and I was finally fed up. I was a wife and the mother of an active 3-year old girl, and felt so much older than I was. One Saturday, I found myself trying to play with my daughter from the couch. I was lethargic, insecure, uncomfortable in my skin, and I wanted to change. I knew that I could do better and be better. Even if I would never look like the women in the fitness magazines, I knew I could make drastic improvements. I was tired of not being able to fitting into my clothes and pulling at them. I was becoming more introverted and self-conscious. I decided to make a commitment to myself and took my first set of ‘before’ pictures. I was mortified but determined to build the best body I could. I read the magazines and numerous articles. It was time to put some of what I learned into action.
What Was Your Exercise Plan?
I knew that lifting weights was going to give me the body that I wanted, so I committed to getting to the gym 3-4 times per week. The first ‘plan of attack’ was to stop lying to myself about the effort I was putting into my workouts. I had to admit that my workout intensity and focus was lacking. I hated to sweat and I would always stop lifting before it became too uncomfortable. No wonder I had little success. I was also underestimating my strength and abilities. I remember the rush that came from curling a 15 pound dumbbell for the first time. I did not know I could do that. Soon, after that I was eager to push my limits.
What else could I do? Only time would tell. So I stopped focusing on the weight I was trying to lose and, instead, focused on challenging myself. How many repetitions could I complete with good form? I would read my magazines and try new moves during the week. I discovered that I enjoyed the variety, pace, and challenge of supersetting and I did that, religiously. Not, long after I made the commitment my current trainer took notice and began to work with me. Under his guidance, I was pushed beyond my own expectations and my body morphed into something that I did not know was possible. It was then, that I knew that competing in figure, something that was ‘just for those women in the magazines, was a possibility for me, too.
What Was Your Diet Plan?
The best advice I received was to begin journaling. By doing that, I learned that over 50-60% of my diet came from carbohydrates, highly processed carbohydrates. I was not eating enough vegetables or lean proteins. I wanted a sustainable lifestyle change and had to interest in the ‘quick fix’ at this point. My body was a laboratory of sorts and I found great pleasure in learning how to fuel it. I knew that If I ate well, my workouts would only improve. Armed with my food log and fitday.com to help me calculate my intake and macronutrients, I learned that my body responded well to a high protein diet with moderate carbohydrates. With more research, I learned how to cycle my carbohydrates. This worked well, as my body bloats severely with too many carbohydrates. But this discovery would not have happened without journaling and blogging.
What Supplements Did You Use?
What Is Your Life Like Now?
The difference in the way that I feel about myself, now, and how I felt almost three years ago is like night and day.
I am that women that carries a large cooler with all of her meals for the day.
I have become the woman that wakes up at 4 and 5 a.m. to go to the gym.
I run because I can.
I lift the heaviest weights I can because I want to gain lean mass.
I seek the soreness that you get from a productive workout.
I have walked on stage in a two piece and five inch heels.
I have become an athlete and a competitor.
I feel confident and comfortable in my own skin. I was painfully shy and now I am more likely to take a risk, now and then and test my limits. I have competed in four amateur figure shows and I am proud to say that I improved with each showing.
I am currently preparing for my first national show next year and I am learning how to have a productive off-season. I am studying to be a personal trainer so that I can help others reap the mental and physical benefits of better health. I have adopted this lifestyle and will never go back to what I was.
Advice For Others
The best advice that I can offer is to be patient, honest, and persistent and do not compare your gains or losses to others. Everybody is different and is going to respond, grow, lean out, and change, differently. And enjoy the process. Building one’s body is an art. It is not about instant gratification. No amount of powders, creams, gadgets, gels, or pills can replace putting in one’s time with the iron. There is value in taking the time to know your body better than anyone else.
More from Kassandre Harper-Cotton
Professional Photos by Weiferd Watts, San Francisco.