Summer’s over, which means my journey through the 90-day transformation program has also come to an end. August 31 was my official final check-in with my coaches, Michelle and Maria. What a transformation!
Let’s get the hard numbers out of the way, and then I can tell you what this program has really done for me. For those interested, I used the FitIndex bluetooth scale to track my body composition numbers. The scale connects with an app and takes all sorts of body measurements, including weight, body fat percentage, muscle mass and body water percentage, and calculates things like body mass index and basal metabolic rate. We also measured around my bicep, chest, waist, hips and thigh at the beginning, middle and end of the program.
Beginning and End Comparison
June 1, 2019
Weight: 137 lbs.
Body Fat: 25.5%
Bicep: 10 inches
Chest: 32.75 inches
Waist: 27.75 inches
Hips: 39 inches
Thigh: 22 inches
August 31, 2019
Weight: 126.2 lbs.
Body Fat: 22.7%
Bicep: 9.5 inches
Chest: 32 inches
Waist: 25.25 inches
Hips: 36.75 inches
Thigh: 20.25 inches
I lost almost 11 pounds, 2.8% body fat, 2.5 inches around my waist, and 2.25 inches around my hips. Thighs also changed by almost 2 inches. Whoa.
Since the only exercises I could do outside of my dance training were basically different versions of pushups, planks and ab workouts, it’s no surprise that the biggest visual changes showed up in my midsection.
I was surprised I lost as much weight as I did because I didn’t join the program with a goal of weight loss. I joined because I wanted to get my nutrition on track while I recovered from my knee injuries. The weight I had lost in the Burn program at the beginning of the year was creeping back, and since I couldn’t exercise like I normally would, I knew food would be the area to focus on to maintain a weight that felt good on my body. At the same time, I could get support on setting fitness goals that would help me build strength and stamina for dancing without putting extra strain on my injured knees.
Numbers and before & after photos are great and all, but I wanted to share some major takeaways that have had a greater impact on me than the visuals or statistics.
You can eat a LOT of food when you pay attention to WHAT you’re eating, especially the fat content.
The weekly meal plans provided to me throughout the program had me eating about 1600 calories a day, with a macros ratio of 40% carbs, 40% protein, and 20% fat. In the first couple weeks, I was actually having trouble eating everything on my meal plans. My menu included breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks. I regularly skipped the snacks or had to break up the lunch into two smaller meals because it was so much food!
For example, the first week, they gave me a breakfast menu that included 3/4 cup of egg whites (equivalent of 6 eggs!), plus a high protein bagel and two slices of turkey bacon. I thought I was going to explode on Day 1. Day 2, I cut down to 1/2 cup of egg whites (that proved to be my limit). All that food was only 420 calories and only included 6.5 grams of fat. By comparison, the protein bagel and cream cheese I was eating before was 340 calories and 11.5 grams of fat, and I would feel hungry for a snack by mid-morning. Which brings me to my second takeaway.
I was eating way less protein and way more fat on my own than I realized.
That Week 1 breakfast I mentioned had 34 grams of protein. I would be lucky if I ate that much protein in an entire day, let alone one meal. I had been trying to incorporate more protein into my diet with high protein bagels and greek yogurt, but the meal plans for the 90-day transformation program took it to a whole new level. Along with the egg whites, I was eating way more meat than usual, mainly chicken and lean ground turkey to minimize the fat content. I was also learning all the ways you can incorporate cups and cups of salad into a meal without it actually being a salad.
Protein shakes and protein bars are my new favorite snacks.
To help me cope with the incredible volume of food on the meal plans and cut down on meal prep time because my time is so limited, my coaches introduced me to protein bars and pre-made shakes. We started with Quest bars, which I thought were quite yummy, but then a dance friend clued me into the Kirkland brand at Costco that had the same nutritional content but were less than half the price and even more yummy (yummier?).
I also started buying Premier pre-made protein shakes at Costco. So now when I’m craving something sweet, which I nearly always do after dinner, instead of eating something that is all sugar and fat, I eat a chocolate chip cookie dough or brownie protein bar, or drink a chocolate or cookies ‘n cream protein shake, and get a ton of protein instead!
Eating right for YOUR body does wonders for it, and that includes what and when you’re eating.
There are a lot of current diet trends that involve cutting out carbs and increasing your fat intake. I knew that wasn’t the right route for my body, and my fitness coaches agreed. My body does well on carbs, so there was no reason to cut them out. Increasing the protein to match the carbs, and then decreasing the unnecessary fat proved to work best.
We also confirmed that my body likes smaller meals and snacks through the day and then a larger dinner. The huge breakfast menus in the beginning of the program left me too full to eat anything else. I always said I eat like a hobbit, meaning frequently, and this program helped confirm it. As they adjusted the meal plans to accommodate my body’s preferred eating schedule, I ate everything I was supposed to more easily.
Egg whites, monkfruit and zero calorie cooking spray are the easiest food changes you could ever make.
Almost every breakfast menu included egg whites. I had never tried them before, but they tasted good! Yes, I could taste the difference between them and a whole egg, but not that much. I bought a couple different Mrs. Dash blends to season them if I wanted. Plus they have no fat and low calories, but plenty of protein, so an easy way to make breakfast healthier.
Monkfruit is a zero calorie, zero glycemic sweetener, kind of like Stevia but without the weird aftertaste. Monkfruit now sits in my sugar bowl to sweeten my daily cups of tea. Honestly, it was the freakin’ easiest thing I ever did to cut down on my sugar intake. Between this and my chocolate protein bars and shakes, I satisfy my sweet tooth without putting myself at risk for health problems down the road.
The program also introduced me to zero calorie cooking spray (I used Pam’s Olive Oil spray). I used it to cook my eggs and turkey bacon, and I would spray it on toast or a bagel to give it a bit of flavor without the extra fat or calories that butter or margarine would add. Toast spritzed with olive oil spray and then sprinkled with monkfruit and cinnamon = delicious.
You’re not burning as many calories as you think you are (and dripping with sweat doesn’t equal more calories burned).
I had a weekly fitness goal of burning 1000 calories through a variety of aerobic, interval and resistance workouts. Most weeks, I didn’t meet my goal because of knee flareups. I had to go through a lot of trial and error to figure out what exercises were ok for my knees and what would trigger flareups.
Once I did find acceptable workouts, I would get annoyed at how few calories I burned. I used the Polar H10 heart rate monitor to track my progress. One of my fitness coaches put together some sets of different pushup, ab and plank exercises for me. My body would be shaking from muscle fatigue by the end and I would be dripping sweat on my yoga mat. I burned maybe 100 calories. The same thing happened with the Blogilates videos I used. Sweaty and exhausted at the end of a 15-20 minute video, and less than 100 calories burned.
I love doing the quick workouts, but I can’t fool myself anymore into believing that 15 minutes of sweating earned me a plate full of Oreos (dammit!). Becoming more aware of what I was actually burning pushed me to do more. I started doing at least 30 minutes when I exercised so I could at least get to 150 calories burned.
Final Thoughts and Moving Forward
This program opened my eyes to how much of an impact just adjusting my nutrition can make. Now that I’ve spent 90 days being aware of how many calories I was consuming versus burning, it’s hard to turn it off. This past week was my first post-program week where I was on my own to pick my meals. I treated myself to an In N Out burger after my final check-in, but after seeing the calorie counts on the restaurant menu, I couldn’t help myself. I had to do a little workout to burn off some of the fries.
I stepped on the scale today to see how I did during the first week on my own. Only a slight uptick in weight (0.4 lb.) and body fat (0.1%), so hardly any change. Maintenance mode is officially on!
Don’t expect me to turn into a calorie-tracking, meal-prepping fitness girl. This program appealed to me partly because I didn’t have to count the calories I ate. They did it for me via the meal plans. I don’t intend to start tracking every calorie I eat or calculate my macros every day. But going through the program has helped me develop new habits.
Thanks to this journey, I have become more conscientious about what I’m eating, and now I have 13 weeks of menus to help me make better balanced choices for meals. I also have a better awareness of how to manage tradeoffs. If I want tortellini for dinner (man, I missed my tortellini!), I know I’ll want to put in an extra workout to offset the extra calories and fat. Or I’ll plan on low calorie, low fat meals for the rest of the day. If I want to bring home some cupcakes or cookies, that’s cool. But now I think I’ll be less likely to eat all of them in one day (not that I ever did that!).
Ready for your own transformation?
If you’ve been wanting support in getting your fitness and nutrition on track, the program is starting up again on September 23. Contact Michelle and Maria at firstname.lastname@example.org today for more info or to sign up. Tell them The Girl with the Tree Tattoo sent you!