RCR W5D2: Five Important Lessons From The Simple Dollar

Technically, this blog post at The Simple Dollar is about personal finance, but if you replace the finance terms in each one with the appropriate exercise or diet equivalent, it can be applied just as easily to the journey toward fitness and a healthy lifestyle.

Here are my slightly modified versions of the author’s wise words.

1. Every time you opt for an unhealthy meal or blow off a workout, you sacrifice a bit of your dreams.

I’m sure we all know someone who has been trying to lose weight for years but for one reason or another never follows through because they let their immediate desire for a brownie or a break from exercise overshadow their ultimate goal of being healthy and fit. Maybe that person is looking at you from the mirror. 😉

As Zig Ziglar said, “The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want now.”

I know that it isn’t always easy to do what you know you are supposed to do — pass up the junk food and drinks and get up early (or stay up late) to exercise every day — but some degree of work and sacrifice really is necessary if you want to rise above the norm and not settle for the lumpy bod of the Average American. Just as it takes discipline and commitment to save money, score straight A’s in school, or become skilled at your chosen field, you have to be willing to put in the sweat time and say no to the extra calories with consistency to make it to your goal.

Jiggle-free thighs and rock hard abs aren’t ever going to be handed to you!

That leads us to point #2:

2. There is no such thing as a magic bullet when it comes to fat loss.

Despite what the infomercials and check-out line magazines try to claim, there is no quick fix outside of cosmetic surgery with a fat-sucking vacuum for love handles, belly fat, saddlebags, double chins, saggy butts, bat wings, muffin tops, chub rub, moobs, or any other problem spot of your choice. You simply have to suck it up and WORK for it…and then you have to keep on doing that exercise and healthy eating stuff for the rest of your life if you want to keep it.

‘Nuff said.

3. My lifestyle and eating habits weren’t nearly as healthy as I believed them to be – and neither is anyone else’s.

Yes, it’s true. Before I started my first Body for Life challenge in 2004, I used to think that I made pretty good choices at the dining table. Sure, I knew I needed to move my body more since I had a sedentary desk job, but I figured that I could at least keep my weight at an acceptable level since I was eating well. 😉

Behold my idea of a healthy day of eating in 2003:

  • Breakfast: Big bowl of Raisin Bran cereal (~2 cups) with 1 c. skim milk
  • Lunch: Whopper Jr. with no cheese; BK side salad with Catalina dressing
  • Snack 1: Pack of Starburst or candy bar from the vending machine at the office or a handful of candy from the ever-present candy bucket on my co-worker’s desk
  • Snack 2: Small bag of chips from vending machine
  • Dinner: Beef or chicken and veggie stir-fry with 2 c. white rice
  • Snack 3 (if still hungry): Another bowl of cereal

Erm…yeah. That was my idea of healthy back in the day. 😛 About the only things I did right were eating every few hours, adding a salad to my lunch, and maybe dinner, but I thought I was doing pretty well compared to my peers.

4. Fitness isn’t just for rich or naturally skinny people – it’s for everyone.

There seems to be some kind of persistent misconception amongst the currently unfit that being active, in shape, and strong is something achievable only by those with enough money to pay for expensive gym memberships and personal trainers or the lucky few who were born with the sort of genes that allow them to think about performing a bicep curl while eating a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s and instantly sprout muscle and lose 1% of their body fat.

This, of course, is utter nonsense. Anyone can take (cheap or free) steps to improve their diet and start an exercise program. I’m not telling you to curl soup cans from the pantry — How utterly useless is THAT favorite nugget of advice from women’s magazines? — but you can certainly perform EFFECTIVE bodyweight exercises like squats, push ups, dips, one-legged deadlifts, and planks in the privacy of your own home, and the last time I checked, cardio exercises like jumping jacks, burpees, running, walking, and dancing were all free, too.

Don’t feel too embarrassed if you suffer from this delusion. Until I was 21 years old and had my attitude about this forcibly corrected by 8 weeks of basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I thought exactly the same thing.

5. Success is a choice.

This one is the biggie.

Getting into shape and staying that way is, like everything else worthwhile in life, something YOU have to make the decision to do as a mature, functioning adult in our society. Yes, it was probably easier when you were a student and participating in team sports. Someone else guided your training and scheduled your exercise. You just had to show up and work. The same could be said about my time in the Army — morning PT was just something I was expected to do as part of what the Army called “soldier readiness,” and someone else was in charge of planning it. Now that we are out on our own without those external structures to force us to work out, it is up to us as individuals to CHOOSE every day to do the right thing when it comes to diet and exercise if we want to succeed.

You can whine until you turn blue about poor genetics and try to put the blame on the manufacturers of calorically-dense junk food, the lack of outdoor parks and activities in your city, and the video games, TV, and Internet that are turning us all into myopic, sedentary blobs with atrophied muscles…but it still boils down to personal choice in the end. You can choose to take on the deconditioned, overweight mantle (and accompanying health issues down the road) that modern 21st century life in the United States is ready to lay across your shoulders, or you can choose to get off your butt for just 30 to 60 minutes per day, learn how to cook some tasty, healthy eats, and start reminding your muscles, bones, and lungs what they were meant to do.

It’s up to you.

1. 15g walnuts, 20g raisins
2. 1.5 c. shrimp and chicken jambalaya with additional 1 c. peas
3. 2 chocolate peanut butter protein popsicles, 5 baby carrots
4. 2 slices firm tofu, 1 t. Szechuan chili paste, 1 small apple, 1 T. ANPB
5. 3 egg white/1 whole egg curry scramble with 1 c. spinach, 1 T. ketchup
6. 4 oz. tilapia with 1 T. SF apricot preserve glaze, 1 c. green beans and Brussels sprouts

* HIIT Run (Afterburn-style 3.5 & 8.5-10 mph; 30 min)
* Stationary bike (Lvl 8; 15 min)
* Elliptical (Lvl 7; 15 min)

RCR W2D1: Who is your inner fab girl?

Why is it so hard for people to really buy into a program and commit? They raise their hands and swear that they will do what it takes to succeed, then go out and break their word within a week or two when it comes to exercise and/or diet.

I mean, you know what you need to do, so why don’t you just do it? What does reaching your goal physique really mean to you? Is it just about a pant size, or does it represent job success, social acceptance, the possibility of finding or keeping love, or self-actualization to you? Dig deep and find out why you care about those last 5, 10, 15, or whatever pounds, because after you’ve been working out and eating right for a while, a number on a clothing label or scale is NOT ENOUGH.

This is about self-actualization for me. If you were to pull my psychic archetype out of my head, you’d see a warrior bard or scholar, someone who is as comfortable kicking butt and adventuring as she is rocking out in front of an audience or learning new things from a pile of dusty tomes. I am unhappy and out of sorts when my internal archetype is at odds with my external physical being.

So what’s your fab girl mental image of yourself? Are you truly doing all that you can to bring that inner Movie Star, Warrior Princess, or whatever she may be into being in the real world, or are you just letting the ephemeral impulses of the moment (“Ooh! Pnut M&Ms! I wants!”) kill your chances of ever being all that you COULD be? Remember–you only get the one body no matter what faith you subscribe to. Do you really want to settle for something less than what you really want?

That was my epiphany at the start of my M&F program in August, and it is what is carrying me through these 6 weeks of RCR as well. I am done with being wishy-washy with my commitment. I’m going to do BOTH the workouts AND the nutrition right this time, just like I did four years ago when I was a complete newbie to all of this, not just one or the other like I have been doing far too often in the past two years, because I refuse to look back on my 30s a decade or two from now and say, “Sigh. I wish I’d just buckled down and DONE IT back then when my metabolism was fired up, my responsibilities were manageable, and my body was strong and injury-free. It’s so much harder now.”

And here is my fitness/diet excerpt of the day from Dax Moy’s Mastering the Fat Loss Mind Set. He is referring to the last of the five steps needed to really lock in a successful fat loss mind set.


So then you’ve got your final stage, which is the actual handing over the cash. It’s the paying the price stage. Now unfortunately because we live in the societies that most of us live in nowadays, it’s very easy to get things on credit. You buy a car or you buy a TV or we even buy houses with money that we don’t own.

It gives us the false impression that you can have all these things and then eventually pay the price. Unfortunately, in our current reality, the way life is at the moment, you have to pay, certainly when it comes to physical stuff, you have to pay the price in full and up front before you get to see the goods.

I have examined why I want this (because I must be true to my inner vision of myself, and that inner vision includes being lean and strong at 130 lbs and 16% body fat, not fluffy and strong at 150 lbs and 24% body fat), and I have researched the price I have to pay to get what I want (16 full weeks of exercise and diet compliance, early morning workouts, occasional evening gym visits, hard interval cardio on gym machines not “fun” quasi-cardio activities like videos, and no sugary junk food for 4 months). Most importantly, I have decided that I have the will and strength to pay the asking price.

Oh, and, of course, I still ask myself, “Would I fire myself?

On the program front, I got in RCR workout B-1 again this morning using 10 lbs for lateral raises and bicep curls and 15 lbs for single-arm rows. The fire hydrants with kick still work me pretty hard, so I’m digging those along with the donkey kicks, which are almost a relief to perform since they loosen my glutes and hips up after the fire hydrants. I made the lateral step ups more challenging by keeping my arms behind my head in prisoner fashion and avoiding the urge to push off with my non-working leg. This modification also meshes with another little goal of mine: to perform unassisted pistol squats by the end of this contest. I’m following a pistol squat progression plan from Grrlathlete.com for this, and I’m up to prisoner step ups. I slowed down the tempo of my push ups to increase difficulty as well, though I might try them with push up stands or perform them military style on Friday for another variation.

The workout took 58 minutes, and burned just under 440 calories according to my HRM.

I’m getting faster!

1. 60 g oats and raisins, 3 egg whites scrambled with 1/4 c. mashed cauliflower
2. 6 pork, leek, and veggie potstickers, 3 oz. silken tofu (~ 40 cal), 1 c. steamed baby bok choy, 1 t. low sodium soy sauce with chili paste
3. 10 almonds, 20 g raisins, 1/2 apple
4. 1 serving chocolate protein pudding, 15g walnuts
5. 3 oz. roasted chicken, 1 c. mixed veggies, 1/2 apple
6. 3 oz. flounder, 1/2 c. peas

Water: 16 cups
Supplements: multivitamin, calcium 600+D, 6 fish oil capsules

* RCR B-1 (~ 58 min; 437 calories burned)
* 100 Push Ups Week 4 max rep test (76 reps; 2 min)

On the over-muscled leg phenomenon among women

It’s one of the most common questions on any female fitness or fat loss forum:

“I bulk really easily in my legs. What kind of exercises should I do to reduce the size of my thighs? HELP!”

I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here and observe that in most cases, when a woman is complaining about thigh circumference, it isn’t because her legs are 99% muscle with just a paper thin layer of skin over them. Most of us who profess to have muscular legs also have an obvious medium to thick layer of squishy padding over them. I know I do unless I am very clean with my food and consistent with my cardio–I swear that there is a symbiotic relationship between strong legs and a convenient supply of nearby fat cells to provide nourishment.

When we are lean and our legs are defined, we don’t mind the muscle so much because random strangers will come up and tell us they look amazing, but when we have been naughty with our eats and sloppy with our workouts, we cry, “Wah! Bulky! Woe is me! Where did these heinous Quadzillas come from?! O Magic Thigh Fairy, save me from my monstrous legs!”

Unless you *are* at the stage where your thighs literally don’t jiggle when you land from a jump knee tuck, I think that diet needs to be of higher priority than the nitpicky details of what kind of cardio to perform or which leg exercises to avoid.

But consistently performed cardio certainly can’t hurt either.

Less Whining, More Butt-Kicking!

It’s now the first week of March, and now that the initial spark of motivation from our New Year’s resolutions has faded, I’m starting to see and hear the same tired old excuses trickle back into the online fitness communities.

“I’m too busy at work/school/home.”

“I was too sore/tired from xday’s workout to do my planned workout today.”

“I was soooooooo hungry/bonked out/PMS’ed that I couldn’t resist the chocolate/cookies/Twinkies/ice cream/pizza at work/home/my parent’s house.”

“My (fill in the blank with body part of your choice) hurts!”

Well, boo hoo hoo. I guess it is now time for my annual spring ass-kicking motivation rant.

The thing about an effective cut is that it will never be comfortable or easy if you’ve moved past the adrenaline rush of uninformed newbie enthusiasm. Once you are in decent shape and have acquired more knowledge about nutrition and exercise, losing fat means your belly will always want more food, your muscles will always be somewhat tired, sore, and worn out, and your now over-educated brain will overflow with excuses to justify extra food and more days off for recovery/improved performance/lean mass preservation.


I hate to tell you this, but the fact of the matter is that with very few exceptions, most of us just aren’t that elite. Yes, that includes me AND you, dear readers. (Ultra marathon runners like Julie and MarathonP can ignore this last statement.)

This is simply what happens when you are working out intensely while at a caloric deficit, and, alas, a caloric deficit is the only guaranteed, scientifically-proven way to burn off the fluff without resorting to surgery. And when you are already close to goal and have cleaned up just about everything in your diet and are posting some decent weights and speeds at the gym, guess what? You will need not only any old caloric deficit to get even leaner, but strict compliance to VERY clean and consistent eats indeed and workouts that push you harder (and very possibly longer) than the ones that got you to 20% body fat.

At some point we all have to ask ourselves if it is worth eight or more weeks of feeling less than 100% in order to achieve our fitness goals, because we all know where cheating on meals and skipping workouts will take us:

Exactly nowhere.

If looking like a fitness model were as easy as eating 50% clean and working out in a half-assed way for 30 minutes 2-3 times a week on the rare occasions when we weren’t feeling tired, out of sorts, stressed out, sore, bloated, or otherwise not absolutely perfect, don’t you think there would be more Monica Brants sashaying around the gyms, malls, and grocery stores?

As Tom Venuto so aptly put it:

“It’s not supposed to be easy. Disciplined people succeed; undisciplined people don’t…Nothing changes by doing what’s fun and EASY.”

So to all of my fellow fit wenches and future fit wenches out there who feel themselves slipping off the path to summer bikini goddesshood a mere two months into 2008 — I say it’s time to bitch up, knock off the wussy girl excuses, and get back on the clean eats and workout wagon 110%. Set your goal and don’t stop until you get there.

Remember, it will only get harder as you age, and the last time I checked, every last one of us is getting older by the minute.