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April 2009

April 27, 2009

One Woman’s Journey

Erica Stewart- Before

Erica Stewart- Before

One day I woke up, twenty six years old, the mother of two wonderful children, and I thought I was having a heart attack. “This is it”, I thought my heart was pounding out of my chest. All my years of neglecting and abusing my body had caught up with me. I was going to leave my two children, then ages 6 months and three years motherless. I went to the doctors expecting to hear the worst, heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke. But after many tests I was remarkably in good health for 212lb, 42 inch waist women, with a BMI of over 39%. Even though I was on the brink of being morbidly obese I was not having a heart attack. I was having a different type of attack, a panic attack. When I delivered my second child I tipped the scales at over 250lbs and for months after he was born my concern over my weight grew more and more. I had always been overweight, a size 14 by the time I was in middle school but never before had I truly thought about the impact my weight was having on my health. So, from that day forward I vowed to make my health my priority. In nine months I went from 212lbs to 127lbs. More importantly I went from the brink of morbid obesity to being healthy women. Here are some of my tips of how I did it.

1- Discover your why! -I had a clear vision of why I wanted to lose weight. It was not to fit into some great pair of jeans, or impress some old friend. My why was to be around for my children. Your why needs to be significant and clear. You need to be able to remind yourself of it every day and it needs to be able to motivate you even on the darkest of days. No matter how much someone else wants this for you, whether it is your trainer, your spouse, your children it will not happen if you don’t want it.

2- Take it one day at a time!
– I learned very early on in my weight loss that I was going to have good days and I was going to have bad days. I learned to focus on what I can control. I cannot change what I did yesterday, so if I screwed up… forget about it. Also, I cannot control what I will do tomorrow. So, if I want to splurge today on the pretext that tomorrow I will scale back it will never work out. I focus on today. Today I will make good choices.

3- Do Butt Busting Cardio first thing in the morning!
Sam taught me a valuable tool; a half hour of cardio in the morning is equal to an hour of cardio at night. I wanted to maximize the amount of calories burned. In addition if I get it out of the way first thing in the morning, no excuse during the day will get in my way. It takes sacrifice. I was a working mom of two small children; I woke up every day at 5am to hit the treadmill. If I was making that sacrifice I wanted to ensure that what I was doing was worth it. So, push it. Break a sweat… push your limits. If you set goals for your cardio, it can be exciting. I started running, holding onto the treadmill for dear life, than I held on with one hand, than I let go one day and have been running ever since. I don’t get off until I am drenched in sweat. There is no better way to start your day!
4- Lift to Lose! – I didn’t do much weight training at the start of my weight loss. What a mistake! One day I woke up 50lbs down and

Erica Stewart- After

still couldn’t wear a tank top because of my “wings.” Not only did weight training transform my body it allowed me to break past my longest plateau. I had been stuck for four weeks at the same weight, once I added resistance training the scale began to move again.
5– Set small goals– I had so much weight to lose at the start that it seemed impossible. Instead I took one small goal at a time. I started with a certain amount of weight I wanted to lose by a specific date. I focused on that goal only. I never really had an overall number I wanted to reach. I still do it today, I have my next goal of 125lbs that I am after.
6- Throw out the fat pants- As you shrink so will your clothes. I would clean out my closet each and every month. I would take anything that was too big and give it away. I would then replace it with one essential item. I didn’t go out and by a whole new wardrobe each time I lost a size as I did not want to be comfortable until I reached the size I wanted. Sometimes it takes being a little uncomfortable to motivate us further.
7- Keep it lean and green- I hate protein shakes, protein bars, gels, etc. Some people love them, me not so much. So I needed to find foods I liked that were healthy. So, I decided to focus my day around lean meats and green vegetables. But, I wanted to be able to eat like a normal person so I spent a few weeks playing around with some lean and green foods until I found what I like. In addition I added some whole grains, dairy, and some healthy fats. I planned my day of food the night before. If I was going out to eat, which I do often since I hate to cook, I look up the restaurant ahead of time online; most places have their nutritional information on their website. It’s a shock sometimes, something I would have ordered assuming it was healthy maybe one of the worst things on the menu! If I went to a restaurant I spoke up, do not be afraid to ask to have something prepared differently for you.
8- Eat Like a King for Breakfast and a Peasant for Dinner– If you are doing your workout in the morning go home and have a good, big, healthy breakfast. Refuel, replenish yourself and start your day off right. Have a good size snack a couple of hours later, then have a slightly smaller lunch, a small snack a couple of hours later, and finally a protein packed small dinner. Avoid carbs after a certain point, for me my snack before dinner was my last meal with a carb. This is what worked for me; everyone’s body is a little different. It will take several weeks of tweaking your diet until you find what is working.

Erica Stewart

9- The Scale Does Not Lie I weigh myself every Monday at the same time. I record it down in a notebook. I chose Monday’s because weekends are the biggest challenge for me. All the outings and distractions it is hard to remain focused. But, I know Monday morning I will be stepping on that scale and I do not want to let myself down. The very few Monday’s that I have had to write down a gain have been very hard. But, I look at it as a learning tool. I hit two major plateaus in my weight loss, the first being when I lost the first fifty pounds. It was then that I started to do resistance training and it helped my breakthrough. I am currently at my second plateau with five more pounds to go. I am using the scale to guide me as I do some tweaks to my diet and workout, I am confident that we will find the right formula to take off those last five pounds.
10- It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon- My journey to being healthy is one that in on- going. I did not become obese overnight, nor will I become healthy. I have days that I simply just don’t feel like it. I need to embrace those days. This was a very personal journey for me; one that sometime’s quite frankly sucks. I am realistic, one day I will not wake up and never have to work out again or watch my diet ever again. If I want to be healthy this needs to become my life. I battle it each and every day. But, I know why I am doing it and I have all the tools I need to succeed.

This post is by Erica Stewart

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April 22, 2009

How To Break Thru a Plateau

The First Thing You Must Do If You Hit a Plateau

You should see some kind of positive results every single week. If you’re getting no results after seven days, look back over thejunk past week and ask yourself- honestly; “Am I consistently doing what I know I should be doing- every day- or have I been cheating or “slacking off”? Have I put in a 100% effort or could I have given it more?” Have I been consistent in my eating and training habits every single day? Have I been eating perfectly one day, then eating junk the next?

Fat loss is the result of consistently applying nutrition and exercise fundamentals every single day. If you realize you didn’t give it your all, don’t beat yourself up, simply re-focus and recommit for the next week. Re-reading and re-writing your goals will help. Plan your training and nutrition strategy for the next seven days in advance; schedule the workouts right in your daily planner with the rest of your appointments. Then go back to work with renewed vigor, motivation and enthusiasm.

If you faithfully followed your program 100% (except for planned, allowed cheat days), and you still got no results, that’s your signal to make adjustments to break your plateau.

How To Break a Fat Loss Plateau

scaleThe first step in breaking plateaus is to stay positive and focused on your goal. Focus on where you want to go, not on what you are. A slow week is not a setback, it is feedback. If you have a week with no results, be like Thomas Edison and say, “This is great! I’ve learned another way that doesn’t work.” When you look in the mirror and see no change, and you still keep the faith, knowing that in time you WILL get there if you stay the course, that’s the difference between those who ultimately succeed and those who fail. The losers- the unsuccessful ones- they throw their arms up in the air in frustration after a few weeks with slow results and they QUIT, all the while grumbling about how they tired “everything” and it didn’t work.

Usually when you hit a plateau, it means you need to work harder: You need to crank up the intensity and frequency of your training. You also need to “tighten up” your diet. People often underestimate the amount of effort it requires to develop a lean body. They’ve been so brainwashed by the media and advertisements for weight loss scams that their perception of the amount of work required is flawed. It takes hard work to get lean and if the degree of effort you’re putting in isn’t working, then quietly (without complaining) accept the fact that you have to work harder.girl-running

For example, if you’re doing 20 minutes of cardio per session, you can increase the duration to 30 minutes. If you’re doing 30 minutes, you can increase it to 40 minutes. If your heart rate is 130 you can push it up to 140. If you’re eating only 3meals per day, you can increase metabolism by bumping it up to 5 or 6 smaller ones. If you’re cheating 2 or 3 times a week you can drop back to only one cheat meal a week. Basically, reaching peak condition means that you train harder and diet stricter!

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April 19, 2009

95% of All Conventional Diets Fail- Why?

Diets Never Work

Let’s begin by defining the word “diet”. A “diet” is any severe restriction of food or calories that’s temporary. Most conventional diet programs call for extremely low calories: 800-1200 or less for women and 1500-1800 or less for men. Any time you restrict calories drastically like this, you will lose weight. So if your only criteria for success is weight loss, and you don’t care where the weight comes from, or how long it stays off, then you could say that “all diets work”.

There are two major problems with this approach: First, the weight loss from very low calorie dieting almost never lasts; 95% of the people who lose weight on conventional diet programs can’t keep it off. The second problem is that most of the weight you lose from low calorie dieting is muscle, not fat. If permanent fat loss without losing muscle is your goal (it should be), then it would be closer to the truth to say “diets never work”.

Statistics prove that diets never work in the long term. If they did work, then how do you explain the huge obesity problem today? Any why is it getting worse? According to the National Institute of Health, there are over 100 million overweight people in the United States. That’s 55% of the adult population! Over 20% of the U.S. adults are clinically obese, which means they are at risk for one or more of over 30 health problems that are associated with excess body fat.dietbooks

Despite the fact that there are more diet programs and weight loss products available than ever before, obesity has continued to rise. The Center for Disease Control recently announced that the number of people in the United States who are clinically obese (at least 30% over their ideal body weight) increased from one in eight in 1991 to nearly one in five in 1999.

There’s a valid scientific reason why most diets fail dismally. Most people make the classic mistake of trying to “starve” the fat with strict diets. However, because the human body has a complex and infallible series of defense mechanisms to protect you from starvation, it is physiologically impossible to lose fat with very low calorie diets. As soon as your body senses a food shortage, these defense mechanisms start to kick in. The human body is simply too “smart” for the restrictive very low calorie diet approach to ever work.

Why Eating Less Doesn’t Always Work

If you eat more calories than you burn, you will store the excess as body fat. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, then you will lose fat. Simple mathematics, right? Well, not exactly.

If fat loss were as black and white as calories in vs. calories out, then how do you explain why some overweight people eat less than lean people, yet they still can’t lose an ounce? And how is it possible for someone with a 2200-calorie maintenance level to eat only 800 to 1000 calories a day without losing any weight?

Using the strictly mathematical model, if you cut out 1000 calories per day from your maintenance level, that will add up to a 7000-calorie deficit in one week. There are 3500 calories in a pound of stored body fat, so cutting out 1000 calories a day should- in theory-produce a weight loss of two pounds per week. Actual real world fat loss rarely works out with such mathematical precision.

Rob Faigin, writing the  book “National Hormonal Enhancement”, makes a humorous, but true observation about calorie balance and weight loss. Faigin says, “If there existed an airtight mathematical relationship between caloric intake and weight loss, cutting caloric intake from 3000 to 1000 would result in a 60,000 calorie per year deficit- and would result in a 200 pound weight loss after a year. What if the person began the diet weighing 200 pounds, would he disappear?”

When a calorie deficit is first introduced, weight loss generally occurs rapidly, just as the numbers would dictate, but it never takes long before weight loss slows, and then eventually stops completely. Why does this happen? Why is it that you don’t lose 50 pounds in 25 weeks or 100 pounds in 50 weeks with a 1000-calorie deficit?

The explanation is quite simple: Over thousands of year, human have developed a weight-regulating mechanism that recognizes when there’s a food shortage and decreases energy expenditure to “protect you”. This survival mechanism is known as the “starvation response”.

ethiopiaThe Starvation Response

You can survive for months without food. You’ve probably heard stories about people getting lose in the mountains or wilderness for months with no food at all (only water), or being confined in a prisoner of war camp for years with only tiny amounts of food. What makes surviving under these conditions possible is your body’s remarkable ability to slow down its rate of calorie burning.

When your body senses deprivation it says to itself, “It looks like this is all the food we’re going to be getting for a while, so we’d better stop burning so many calories and start saving our energy. This way we’ll be able to survive longer on the little amount of food we have.

The starvation response developed largely from exposure to adverse environmental conditions like droughts, natural disasters and food shortages. Furthermore, there were no supermarkets ten thousand years ago- if people wanted to eat, they had to either grow their food or kill it. It’s likely that at times, ancient man didn’t know when the next meal was coming and may have only eaten once or twice a week. The starvation response evolved in humans to ensure the survival of the species.

Your Body Can’t Tell The Difference Between Dieting and Starvation

This wonderful feature of human evolution is a blessing if you’re stranded out in the wilderness with no food. During periods of cavemenstarvation, the body slowly begins to feed off itself, burning fat stores, muscle and even internal organs for energy. If you continued to burn calories at your normal rate, you limited reserves of store energy would be exhausted quickly and you would die very soon after your food supply was cut off. The starvation response keeps you alive longer.

Unfortunately, this same life-preserving mechanism can work against you when you’re trying to lose weight because your body can’t tell the difference between dieting and starvation!

Sever calorie cutting always sends your body into “starvation mode”. There’s nothing you can do to stop this from happening other than to avoid sever calorie shortages!

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April 15, 2009

How to Set Compelling Goals That Will Propel You Forward!

A Simple Procedure You Must Complete Before You Begin Any Diet or Exercise Program

This might be the most important post in this blog, even though it has nothing to do with calories, protein, carbohydrates, fats, cardio, weights or anything else related to nutrition or training.

You see, there is a simple, but critical procedure you must complete before you lift a weight, job a mile, start a nutrition program or even set foot in the gym.

If you successfully complete this procedure, the nutrition and training will come easy and a lean body will soon follow.

If you ignore this step- like most people do- you are destined to fail no matter what you do or how hard you try.

This crucial first step is goal setting.


A lot has been said and written about goal setting- entire books have been devoted to the subject- but the truth is, most people never decide exactly what they want.

Some people give their goals a fleeting thought , but most never get specific and commit their dreams and desires to writing. “Most people,” says Denis Waitley, author of The Psychology of Winning, “spend more time planning a party, studying the newspaper or making a Christmas list than they do planning their lives.”


According to Zig Ziglar, an expert on goal setting and one of the nation’s most respected motivational speakers, only 3% of Americans have actually taken the time and effort necessary to put their goals to paper.

This is unfortunate because the number one reason for failure tin losing body fat- and in life- is the lack of clearly defined, written goals.


Ziglar compares not having goals to shooting at a target with a blindfold on.

“How could you possibly hit a target you can’t even see?” says Zig.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably not going to end up anywhere!

Action without planning is the number cause of failure.


The Difference Between Knowing What To Do and Doing What You Know

Nutrition and exercise can be confusing subjects, so when you first get started, the initial challenge is that you don’t know what to do.

Now that you have this program in your hands, knowing what to do will no longer be a problem.

However, gaining knowledge is only half the battle.

The far greater challenge for most people is applying that knowledge and taking action.

There is a big difference between knowing what to do and doing what you know.

Goals are the bridges that span this gap.

Goals, when properly planted in the subconscious mind, produce action.

Goals create energy and motivation.

Goals get you out of bed early in the morning and into the gym.

The secret the staying motivated all the time is to set emotionally charged goals- in writing- and to stay totally focused on those goals day and night, without taking your eyes off them.

A goal with a purpose is the fuel that propels you forward.

The behaviors that are produced by subconscious conditioning are more commonly referred to as habits.

Fortunately, you can re-program your subconscious mind with positive instructions and become a creature of positive habit, just as easily as you have become a victim of negative habits.

It all begins with a conscious decision and written goals.


The Power of the Thought

05usa0844After competing in dozens of bodybuilding competitions and helping thousands of people with training and nutrition programs, I have become firmly convinced that the most mastersimportant part of getting in great shape is simply making up your mind to do so. You get in shape by setting goals and thinking about them all day long. I know that sounds a little strange, but stay with me for a minute and I’ll explain.

I’m not saying you can simply “think yourself thin.” No amount of positive thinking will work without action. Obviously you have to exercise and eat the right foods. What I’m suggesting is that if you don’t channel your mental energies properly, even the best diet and training program won’t help because you will always “sabotage” yourself. Did you ever wonder why you have lapses and breakdowns in “willpower?” Or why some days you just can’t drag yourself to the gym? Or why you “fall off the wagon” completely? Or why you can’t say “no” to those chocolate chip cookies? It’s because negative programming in your subconscious mind is controlling your behavior.

This is not a “new age,” “Pollyanna” or “pie-in-the-sky” mentality- there’s a valid scientific reason why goal setting works. It works because it harnesses the awesome power of your subconscious mind, and your subconscious mind guides your behavior.

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