Part 4: Finding Balance

So this will be the final part of “My Fitness Journey”. This is really all about mindset and how the key to finding your happy place is trying different approaches and finding what works for you. As I’ve written about before, I’ve tried a lot of different diet approaches:

  • Lean Cuisine special- super low cal, no nutritional balance
  • Meal Plans- unrealistic (for my life), and gives no options for eating out, special occasions, alcohol, etc.
  • Paleo- high fat, nutrient dense, but very limiting. Also, can cause many people to eat more than calorically necessary if you have issues with understanding hunger cues. Also, this messed with my gut quite a bit, probably due to the high fat content..
  • Gluten free- also limiting, can contain a lot of processed food, and unnecessary for a lot of people

My most recent nutritional approach has been “IIFYM” or “If It Fits Your Macros”. There is a lot of science behind this way of eating. My coach has a simple breakdown here, and there are some excellent resources and more in-depth breakdowns on Katiesfitscript (one of my favorite macro-based bloggers). If you’d like the more in-depth, science-y explanation, I’d recommend Krissy Mae Cagney’s book or resources on I have read all of these resources, and love the science behind it. Someday I’d love to be a macro-based coach, but certification costs $$$ and we’re currently working on our debt snowball, but maybe someday 😉

Since May of 2015 I have been following this type of eating plan. When we got back from our honeymoon in August of 2015, I discussed with my coach my desire to compete in bodybuilding again. She suggested I take the fall and winter months to put on more muscle mass, and aim for a Spring/Summer show. I settled on an OCB (a natural bodybuilding organization) show at the end of April. I worked over the next several months at getting strong in the gym again and getting back to proper nutrition. I was still working full-time nights, and often picked up extra shifts to make ends meet. Weightloss wasn’t the goal at this point in time, but I definitely could have used the extra calories I was eating to build more muscle. Nevertheless, I did see some progress in muscle tone:

May 2015 Jan 2016.jpg

May 2015 to January 2016 glute progress 😉

Regardless, when prep started on December 28th, I knew I had an uphill battle. Here was my starting picture:

Jan 1, 2016.jpg

Look how happy I looked! Lolz.

I remember still not being wholeheartedly into this prep. I knew what “real” bikini competitors looked like, and I knew I was nowhere near that. It took me weeks to even send my coach real progress pictures where I would pose, etc, because I just felt ridiculous doing them. I half-assed the first 4-6 weeks of prep HARDCORE. I was also still overworking myself, and not prioritizing ME.

Then I made the best decision I had made in a long time. I decided to start travel nursing. This eliminated my on-call time, and alleviated the need for overtime. I cut back on my stress, and was able to focus on myself more. I wrote a whole blog on why this was instrumental in my ability to compete this past spring here.

Here is the difference I made in month of taking care of ME versus working myself to the bone, sleeping little, and putting off exercise in the name of money:


Feb 2016 Mar 2016.jpg

I learned to work smarter, not harder, and the physical results followed. I think in my 13 weeks at my first travel assignment, I picked up 2 PRN shifts at my old job (the minimum requirement), and 1 overtime shift. Previously, I was picking up at LEAST one shift every 2 weeks.

In addition, I found a healthy, more balanced way to train and diet (once again–work smarter, not harder). I ate out with my husband, I grabbed dinner on the road if necessary (or if I forgot my prepped chicken in the freezer at home). My 3 weeks out update highlighted how awesome I still felt towards the end. I also wrote about the challenges of working out while working night shift here.

My competition was a great experience. I didn’t want to eat everything in sight afterwards thanks to having treats fit into my macros throughout prep. I also knew I had a solid plan going forward after the competition was over. My coach followed me through the day of, and was there Monday morning to help me get excited about future goals and plans. I remember my best friend called me to congratulate me and I told her “Oh my gosh, I actually feel like I belong up there!” It was a great feeling. I didn’t place, but I did end middle of the road (anything above last place was improvement in my book).

Show collage.jpg

My cheer section ate more food than I did that weekend! I stopped when I was full, and bought a ton of veggies Monday morning!

I continued to follow a “reverse diet” throughout the summer (see above reference links for more on that). Sure, I haven’t been perfect. And the last 4-6 weeks have proven to be a struggle. Vacation, moving, and a new work schedule can be difficult adjustments. But for the first time, I can look back on the summer and realize I didn’t let all my progress fly out the window despite some setbacks. I didn’t have to untag myself in pictures friends took at the lake or pool. I have finally found some semblance of “balance” in being happy with the way I look while still being able to enjoy my social life. I am able to say “no” to certain temptations without feeling like I’m depriving myself, because I can recognize when it’s worth it, and when it simply isn’t.

As far as my plans for the “rest” of my fitness journey…who knows? I may pick up CrossFit again, but class times are hard to make working 12 hour day shifts. I love heavy lifting, and am working on getting some good lifts in before work. 4 am is not my preferred workout time, but reflecting on everything I’ve done to get here, I realize that I have to figure out my new routine, or I’ll back track to a place I really don’t want to go to again.

Thankfully, along this way I have also gained some inner confidence that also helps. I realize that I am strong, and I work hard, and I move my body regularly. All of these things truly add up over time. Sometimes it takes years, but you will see a difference in your mental and physical health that is reflective of how you take care of your body. I feel better about myself, therefore my body image is more positive. I owe a lot of this to the wonderful women who are part of Team AONFit, who constantly encourage and inspire and motivate me to do better.

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Oct 2015 Sept 2016.jpg

Oh…and just to be another “f the scale” advocate– October 2015 vs September 2016. 1 pound difference. Guess which one I’m heavier in? I actually took this picture the day I wrote this post and was feeling “fat”, but it goes to show that looking back at where you used to be is the best way to measure how far you’ve come..even on bad days!

If I can pass on anything out of this experience it is this: KEEP GOING. Don’t stop, and don’t move backwards if you can help it. We all started somewhere. Even the super-lean badass looking Instafamous stars. And frankly, if they don’t share those setbacks and reminders that they started from ground zero at some point, then they are probably not worth the time and mental agony you fork out following them. Take your own progress pictures, and stop comparing yourself. I do follow some fitness inspiration ladies, but they all post pictures at their best, and at their worst. If they act like super humans, then they just bring me down and that negativity towards myself will get me nowhere.

I hope these posts were helpful to someone out there (here are parts onetwo, and three). If nothing else, it was good for me to go back and reflect on where I’ve come in the last 5-6 years. I find myself in ruts sometimes, and I just have to remind myself to just fake it until I make it at times. Get to the gym, hit your macros, and don’t forget that consistency is what adds up over time. Keep trying until you find balance, because it is out there. A routine that works right now may not work later, but you’ll never know if you don’t keep pushing ❤

Some other blogs/Instagram accounts/people I have found to help inspire me without causing negativity:

  • PaleOMG:
    • Her weekly workout blogs are great, and she has an awesome body but she WORKS for it.
  • Katiesfitscript:
    • Cheerleader turned bikini athlete turned marathoner (who also lifts heavy). She’s so very real and blogs about a lot of life issues/connundrums that really hit home!
  • Jazzythings (Instagram account): previous figure competitor who powerlifts now and has talked about her struggles with being so strict with diet to training for strength instead of physique goals,

I would LOVE feedback if anyone finds this helpful 🙂 I have some ideas for future blogs, and I would love to be able to help more people work towards balance and healthy lifestyles! Comment or email me, and I will respond asap.

With changes, adjustments, and finding balance

❤ Alex

4 thoughts on “Part 4: Finding Balance

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