How Hypertrophy Training Taught Me to Stop Hiding and Start Being Myself

Confession: I am sometimes still 200 lbs in my head.

I have a hard time seeing myself as I am when I look in the mirror and I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the camera for as long as I can remember. There are actually NO photos of me at 200 lbs because I just could not bear to see myself.

It’s been 3 years since I started making major changes which ultimately changed my life in a multitude of ways, including losing weight and eliminating my dependence on the pharmaceuticals managing my PCOS symptoms. It was just the beginning though.

Last year at about this time, Kourtney Thomas and Jen Sinkler released a strength training program designed to encourage hypertrophy for women. Hypertrophy is specifically intended to build muscle mass, something that many women have been taught to shun. We’ve spent our whole lives taught we must be smaller, why would we want to train our bodies to be bigger?! Why would we want to take up space?!

I liked the idea of it, adding muscle mass to my body. I wanted to LOOK like all the work I was putting in. But it also messed with me. Taking up space isn’t just a physical thing, it’s a mental thing. I’ve expended a great deal of energy making myself small throughout my life, and not just physically.

Because it scared me, I put off actually starting the program for MONTHS. I didn’t actually start it until the end of August. I hadn’t even joined a gym yet, something that is a requirement for the program (unless you have a well-equipped home gym, which I do not).

My only goal was to see what my body could do. There was no “I want to drop a certain percentage of body fat” though that was definitely on my mind, nor were there any strength goals. I wanted to fall back in love with the process. I wanted to see what my body would do with consistent training.

Even though there is talk of the positive psychological effects of this type of training written into the program (which is really well written, by the way), I didn’t expect what has ultimately happened.

Yes, my body has changed, pretty dramatically. Yes, I’m stronger physically. Yes, I’ve fallen back in love with training my body much the same way I did while I was in high school. Yes, I’m a little addicted to watching the numbers climb as I move heavier and heavier weights and the accompanying endorphin rush.

I didn’t expect this program would create an opening for me to find confidence in my voice. I didn’t expect that finding my confidence would open up a path for me to explore the things I’m passionate about. I didn’t expect that it would completely alter the way I walk, the way I speak, the way I see myself, and the way I occur to the people around me.

I didn’t expect that it would be a key contributor in teaching me to fly.

Underneath everything that I do and am, I am a writer. I probably have been my whole life even though I’ve spent most of it hiding it from people. It has only been very recently that “I’m a writer and I teach people how to heal themselves through the written word” came rolling off my tongue of its own accord, unbidden, free as a bird.

You see, in August, just as I was starting Bigness Project, I enrolled in a mentoring program and was matched up with an art therapist as my mentor. It was an instant heart connection. Within the first hour of meeting with her, she’d planted this little seed in my creative mind that I could teach. By October, right as I was completing Phase 1 and entering Phase 2, I actually started to believe that I could. By the time I finished the program, I had a name for the course I’ll be teaching at a local community center here and the encouragement of my teenaged son to create a teen version. I’m also working on creating a virtual version of the course.

Somewhere in the middle of the program “no more hiding” became my mantra. Even though you haven’t seen much of me here in this space, I’ve nearly completed my second book of poetry and begun a poetry podcast. I plan to do a wellness podcast as well. Interestingly, the first time I tried to record I lost the recording because I didn’t fully understand the software I was using. I thought it was great what I’d recorded, but in hindsight, I’m glad I lost it. It wasn’t my voice. It was my “please don’t see me voice”.

Since completing the program, I’ve had several interactions with people that allowed me to show my passion, all bright eyes, huge grin, hands and arms gesticulating and they weren’t scared off. Better, they were drawn in! It was a major aha moment for me to realize that the me that I’ve been hiding is so much more enthralling than the me I’ve been walking around as for 30 years. The me I’ve been hiding ISN’T overwhelming or too much, contrary to what I believed.

Make no mistake, being seen and heard is still scary for me. Correction: the IDEA of being seen and heard is still scary for me. Actually BEING seen and heard is a revelation, a thermal updraft in my wings. Every time I allow it, it gets easier. Every time I allow it, the space between allowances becomes smaller.

Ultimately, training my body to be bigger has shown me the path that leads back to the me I was before the world told me I had to be smaller, quieter, to cross my legs, that men were dangerous, that it’s too scary out there for a woman. The genie cannot be stuffed back in the bottle. And even if it could, living out loud is too much fun for me to allow it.

Without further ado, the particulars:

I’ll admit that I didn’t do a very good job with the numbers. I didn’t take the measurements called for before I started, so I’ll give you the overall changes for 2017, most of which occurred during the program:

Lbs lost: 13 Body fat % decrease: 5% Waist inches lost: 3.5 Chest inches lost: 2.5 Hips inches lost: 1.5

And here are the photos:

Weeky Round Up

Here’s your round up of tips, ideas, and other great stuff.

Book I’m reading: Rising Strong by Brené Brown – I haven’t read Daring Greatly yet, but it’s in the queue. My take away thus far include: Story telling is powerful, powerful stuff. Like any good story though, you can’t skip the middle. That’s where you hit the point of no return, where no matter what you do, your life will be changed.

What I made this week: a pizza frittata (eggs, dried oregano, red onion, garlic, Applegate Farms pepperoni), antipasti salads (nope, not Paleo and not perfect), and chili (modified from Cook’s Illustrated – the only thing I alter is swapping the beans for another pound of ground meat, usually turkey). It was a pretty low key week, though I may attempt some grain free baking this weekend. I have cassava flour I’m really wanting to play with.

Mantra I used: I am a powerful creator. This was definitely helpful as I started writing my book and developing a mini course.

Content my subscribers received: Monday I introduced a new focus to my newsletter subscribers – mindset. I’ve been writing about mindset and it’s role in my evolution for a couple years now so it didn’t feel right to leave that out here when it has been pivotal in my success.

How I moved: Neghar Fonooni’s Lean & Lovely Program – I can’t remember when she released this program, but I’ve run through it a couple times, at least the first two phases. I’m in Phase One right now and it’s amazing to me how quickly the routine of a program helps me find my stride.

The Basics: Bone Broth

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Ah, liquid gold…

There are many benefits of bone broth and many ways of making it. I use it for gut healing as my microbiome is still a bit off and the collagen for my skin and joints. I use chicken bones for mine as it ends up being very cost effective for me and I’ve never been a huge fan of beef broth. This isn’t really a recipe. It’s more of a guide so that you can tweak it to best suit you and your resources.

I use a 6 quart slow cooker to make mine as it’s what I have and I like the hands off nature of it. I save all the bones from making Nom Nom Paleo’s Cracklin’ Chicken and then supplement with chicken soup bones that I can purchase at my local Whole Foods. I probably end up with between 5 & 6 lbs of bones, enough to mostly fill the crock. I then fill it with enough filtered water (you don’t want the chemicals from your water supply in this – you won’t get the healing properties) to cover the bones, add 2 tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar, turn it on and walk away.

I do use two stages in the cooking though – 2 -3 hours on high (depending on whether or not my bones where completely defrosted or not), then 20 hours on low. My slow cooker runs hot and it will simmer the whole time while on low.

So what are you looking for when it’s done? You should be able to squish the bones in your fingers like Play-Doh. You will need to strain the broth through cheese cloth layered in a fine mesh strainer (I suggest doing this into a quart liquid measure for ease of pouring) to get all of the bone waste out of it. Then you can freeze it in the jars – but please leave room at the top for expansion. I’ve learned this the hard way…

So what do you use bone broth for? You can make soups with it, some people drink it as is from a mug, or use it where recipes call for a bit of stock. You’ll notice I don’t put salt in it. I do this so that I can customize the level of salt in each thing I make with it. You can always add more salt. I like to heat up a jar with a minced clove of garlic, a knob of ginger shaved with a Microplane, a pinch of sea salt, and a squeeze of lemon. It’s just right for a night where you want something but nothing heavy.

The Basics: Mayo

There is no shortage of mayo recipes on the internet, but it is one I’m constantly asked for, so here you go.

From an equipment perspective, this is the perfect recipe for an immersion blender. Why? Because you can literally dump all the ingredients in and blend until thick and creamy. Of course you can use a standard blender, you’ll just need to drizzle the oil in slowly as the mayo will break if you do put it in too quickly. This is really, really basic and a great beginner recipe. A good mayo is the base of so many great sauces so this is really a staple.

1 large room temp egg (best quality you can get)
1/2 tsp ground mustard
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
pinch of salt
1 and 1/4 cups olive oil or avocado oil (you can use EVOO, but it’ll be very green and the flavor of the oil stands out)

That’s it. If you are using a standard blender, blend the 1/4 cup of oil with the other ingredients first, then drizzle in the rest of the oil.

If you want to make this aioli, use lemon juice and add a clove of garlic. Fresh herbs make a lovely addition when topping a burger or sandwich, as does roasted garlic. If using dried herbs, make it ahead of when you’ll use it so the herbs can permeate the mayo. I also like making chipotle mayo by mixing in some chipotle hot sauce and my buffalo dipping sauce is just mayo and Frank’s. Easy peasy.

The Basics: Coconut Milk

Welcome to the first installment of The Basics. I often am asked how I make certain things or for recipes for others and often times these are what I would consider basic ingredients or recipes, things everyone should know how to make regardless of where they are in their health journey.

I’m starting with Coconut Milk largely for selfish reasons: I wanted to see if I could make it for less than I was spending on the multiple cans I go through each week. Because I’m dairy sensitive, I use coconut milk in my coffee. I first started doing this about a year and half ago with my first attempt at a Whole30. Drinking my coffee black was, and still is, something I just cannot do.

Turns out I can and I like my homemade so much better.

This was my second batch. I’ve made two more since I took these pictures and I’ve finally got my method down. The key is the length of time you blend. It makes a hug difference in the end result.

All you need is 8 ounces of unsweetened dried coconut (organic if it’s within your means, though this bag is organic from Trader Joe’s and was only $1.99 – less than a single can of coconut milk), 3 cups filtered hot water, and a blender. That’s it. One of the best things about homemade coconut milk is that there are no emulsifiers, something that many people seem to be sensitive to.

Dump the coconut and the hot water in your blender and let sit for at least 5 minutes. Then you get to blend the heck out of it. Blend for a minimum of 10 minutes. Longer is better if you want it even creamier.

The optional equipment here is the nut bag, but I strongly recommend getting one if you intend to make this with any regularity.

The next step is the strain and squeeze step. If you aren’t using a nut bag, you’ll need several layers of cheese cloth and a fine mesh strainer. If you are using the nut bag, the fine mesh strainer is more for a resting place. Pour the coconut milk into the cheese cloth/nut bag. If it’s cool enough to handle, you’re then going to squeeze as much liquid from the coconut as possible. If not, let it sit until it is and then squeeze. Yes, I know this sounds obvious, but I did actually try to squeeze it hot. I do not recommend it…

Let everything rest for 15 to 20 minutes (this is kind of a lazy recipe). Come back and squeeze again. This is a good test for your grip strength. You want the coconut to be as dry as possible when you are done squeezing. And that’s it. Pour into jars and refrigerate. This should keep for 3-4 days. If you aren’t going to use it all, freeze it.

One of the things I noticed was that mine stays fluid, which I love. A quick shake and it’s ready to pour in my coffee. But I only got it to do this with a longer blend. I think my first two batches I blended for just under 10 minutes. Both times the cream solidified in the refrigerator.

A quick note on the leftover coconut: this is what coconut flour is made from. If you use coconut flour, do not throw this away. All it needs is a few hours of drying in the oven at about 200 degrees F, then a whirl in a food processor to make it into flour. If you don’t want to do this right away, just put it in the freezer to come back to at another time. But I have to say that this is one of things I like about this process: zero waste. If nothing, you can make Paleo pup treats. Because our doggies aren’t meant to grains…

**A small housekeeping note: I’m still playing around with the functionality of this site. This means some changes you might notice, others you (hopefully) won’t. Please know that it’s not my intention to confuse or annoy you. If you have any suggestions, things you’d like to see, functionality that really doesn’t work for you, shoot me an email. I’m always happy to take suggestions: barbara@whathealthcoacheseat.com. **

Simple Ingredient Meals

I didn’t do much cooking this week, relying heavily on simple, ingredient-based meals. When life gets busy, I tend to fall back on these types of meals, as much because it eliminates my thinking about what I’m going to eat as because time management.

Clockwise from the top left:

  1. Wellshire Smoked Chorizo with roasted potatoes, sauteed baby kale, and guacamole
  2. Kielbasa and Bubbies Sauerkraut (raw and fermented)
  3. Greens with crispy chicken thighs, artichoke hears, capers, and a lemon vinaigrette
  4. Venison on greens with Cindy’s Chipotle Ancho Vinaigrette

The basic structure is always the same: protein+fat+vegetables. Yes, I was a little bit heavy on processed meat this week, but because I’m not shooting for perfect AND I know it’s of high quality, I’m just fine with it.

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Breaking Down The Fat Summit + Sweet Potato Hash

This past week, Dr. Mark Hyman has been presenting a symposium called The Fat Summit. It’s been really quite interesting, though time consuming. There was just no way I could listen to each and every interview, so by the end of the week I was cherry picking the interviews I was most interested in and would best benefit me and my clients.

Here were my take-aways from the summit:

  • The calories in/calories out model is broken – we all know at least one person who has done all of the correct things on paper and still not had the scale move the direction they wanted it to go in
  • Quality matters – high quality fats from grass-fed meats, coconut oil, avocados, and olive oil (not necessarily in that order) have no adverse effect on the gut micro biome, an important clarification as poor quality fats do have an adverse effect
  • Fat doesn’t make you fat – the low fat diet we were all told was best for us in the 80s & 90s has brain washed us so terribly that people, women especially, are terrified of eating fat and our bodies and brains are suffering the consequences in the form of elevated Type 2 diabetes and dementia/Alzheimers rates

That’s just scratching the surface. There was much conversation about statins, the adverse effects of sugar & processed carbohydrate consumption, and the psychology of cravings as well. If you have time and are so inclined, they are running an encore tomorrow for 24 hours. You can check it out here: fatsummit.com

Now, by popular demand, Sweet Potato Hash…

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*With how often I make this, I thought I’d have a better photo of it. Sheesh! Not that I need an excuse to make it, but now I have to so I can upload a more appealing photo of it!

Sweet Potato Hash

2-3 cups sweet potatoes – small dice (this is usually 2 mediumish or 4 smallish sweet potatoes)
4 slices of bacon chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 medium onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
pickled jalapenos, diced (to taste)
salt – to taste
preferred seasoning – to taste (I often use 1 tsp cumin, 1 tbsp oregano and couple dashes paprika or about 1 tsp Penzey’s Fajita seasoning – I don’t exactly measure.)

Place the bacon in a cold cast iron or stainless steel pan with a couple tablespoons of coconut oil and heat over medium heat. As soon as the bacon starts to sizzle, dump the sweet potatoes in the pan and stir, making sure the potatoes are coated in the fat. Smooth everything out so that as much of the sweet potatoes are touching the bottom of the pan as possible then don’t touch them for 10 minutes.

At 10 minutes, stir the sweet potatoes. If they are getting too brown, adjust the heat down as needed so as not to burn them before they are cooked through. Smooth back out then let sit for another 10 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, jalapenos (if using), salt and seasoning and cook for another 3 minutes.

At this point, depending on your stove, pan type and how high or low your heat was, the hash will likely be ready. Give the sweet potatoes a check though. If they are still a little underdone, put a lid on the pan, lower the heat just a little, and cook for another 5 minutes. You might lose a little bit of texture but you’ll maintain the caramelization and will have the added bonus of having cooked through hash. It’s a win-win, I assure you.

Now I should note a few things on ingredient quality here. Sweet potatoes are not on the Dirty Dozen list, nor are onions or garlic, so please don’t feel the need to use organic here. Please use the best quality bacon you can – happy pigs taste better and their fat is far superior. Why does buying non-feed lot animals matter? Because humans and animals store toxins in their fat. Animals who are raised in feed lots tend to be fed prophylactic antibiotics and feed that isn’t what they’d naturally eat. Since bacon is by design a fatty substance, quality matters here. And feel free to experiment with other meats if you’d like. The bacon is nice but by no means a requirement. Please also read the labels on your pickled jalapenos, should you choose to use them. They often have artificial coloring in them and unnecessary preservatives. The only brand I’ve found that is free of stuff I’d rather not eat is Hatch and I found it at Whole Foods. But more than anything, just do the best you can.

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