2019 Summer Shred

And just like that…it’s that time of year again! Summer Shred 2019 officially kicked off today and will run until May 22, which is right before my birthday…and Memorial Day weekend! This is my 5th year in a row doing this and I swear every year the diet gets easier to follow. Last year my whole world was upside down and, as a result, the shred didn’t pan out. My head wasn’t in the game…at all. I followed the diet but I didn’t workout, and without both the results just won’t happen. I ultimately ended the shred before the 30 days were up and I wasn’t even phased – I even went as far as to purchase a one-piece bathing suit. This year, I’m going to try my damndest to fight through every mental obstacle I have and get it done. I want to be healthier and I want to feel more confident on the beach…and in life. It’s going to be an uphill battle – but I need to do this. My stomach is still relatively flat and my weight has stayed pretty much the same so the physical goals for this shred are simple: to gain back some of the muscle that I lost & lose body fat. But really, this is so much bigger than a beach-body challenge for me this year. After being through hell & back, all I can hope for with this challenge is to not just get my body back…but to get my mind right again once & for all.

L – 2017, my “best” body / R – now

If you’d like to follow along on this 30-day summer shred, I’ve listed a shopping list below of the foods that I will be eating. Keep in mind, this is what works for ME. I will try to post here and on my Instagram so as to provide more guidance if you’re following. However, if you’d like a more customized plan or have any questions as to what foods will work in addition to what I’ve listed, feel free to email me at thefight2befit@gmail.com and I will be more than happy to help!

  • Oats
  • Egg muffins
  • Brown rice, quinoa, or sweet potato
  • Avocado
  • Lettuce
  • Banza (chickpea pasta)
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Chicken, ground turkey, lean pork, tuna
  • Turkey jerky
  • Veggies (kale, asparagus, mushrooms, string beans, zucchini, brussels, eggplant, peppers, etc)
  • Almonds, cashews
  • Cottage cheese
  • PB
  • Quest Bars
  • GoMacro Bar
  • Unsweetened vanilla almond milk

**Not listed here are my kitchen staples (balsamic vinegar, spray/oil, hot sauce, mustard, spices, etc.) as well as my protein powder /BCAAs. Also not listed, Apple Cider Vinegar. My day will always begin with an ACV cocktail – 1 tbsp of ACV mixed with 12oz of cold water.*

Time to be better than what I thought was my best!

xo

Gina

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2018 Summer Shred!

It’s finally spring weather!! That means one thing – it’s Summer Shred time! I’ve done this shred for the past 4 years and every year I learn and improve for the next. Last year, I really got it right so I’m going to mimic what I did and tweak the workouts to be more functional, in accordance to what my body can actually do.

In 2014, I embarked on a 4-week shred and Mission: Hot Body challenge. I mimicked the very strict & regimented diet and workouts of bikini competitors. Super clean eating , 2-a-day workouts…you name it, I did it. It was crazy hard…but I got it done. After 4 weeks of extremely hard work, I had abs and was the leanest & most cut I’ve ever been. The problem was that as soon as the challenge ended, it was my birthday and with it came ice cream cake & plenty of drinks throughout the weekend. To top that off, just one month later I ended up seriously injuring my shoulder…which I have since had surgery to correct. Within two months, all of that hard work seemed to be for nothing. The next two years, I did slimdowns but couldn’t get it quite right. I still worked out and I continued to eat fairly well, but my body would only look how I wanted it to for a short time. Last year, that changed. Now, a certified nutritionist, I have combined my life experience and added a lot more knowledge to the bank. Last year, I did a 6-week shred that was strict…but didn’t totally eliminate things. I limited dairy and sugar. I upped my protein and kept my carbs early in the day. I lost about 10% body fat and about 10-15 lbs in that time span. My workouts were done with a fellow trainer (who is my magical ART guy as well), so while they were intense they were monitored. I killed it and looked great for my birthday…and throughout the summer.

However, the end of summer & end of year didn’t go well for me. Life events and health issues transpired causing a lot less workouts and a lot less motivation.

So here we go again. 4 weeks until my birthday…so a 4-week shred shall begin. I’m going to follow the same plan as last year for my diet (shopping list is below). My workouts will vary based on how I feel health-wise and injury-wise. There will likely be a lot more cardio along with some lower impact resistance training worked into the mix. I’ll post everyday for the first week, as I did last year, to give anyone following along a good gauge on what I’m doing.

In general, I eat pretty well…I’m just not super strict. For the next 4 weeks, I will be cutting out most sugar, alcohol, and limiting my caffeine & dairy intake. The food scale will also come back. Along with MFP, I found the food scale to be extremely helpful in keeping myself on track and accountable.

My ultimate goal with this shred, like every other, is to lose fat while gaining my lean muscle…and motivation…back. I’ve been pretty sick so I’m starting a little later than I planned but we begin TODAY (April 24) and go until May 23 (my birthday). You can continue the rest of that week if you choose, but since that’s my birthday…that’s when mine will end.

This is a list of the foods that I will be sticking to throughout the next 4 weeks, in case you want to reference it for food shopping:

  • Oats
  • Egg whites
  • Tuna
  • Brown Rice
  • Avocado
  • Lettuce
  • Chickpeas
  • Mushrooms
  • Sweet potato
  • Quinoa
  • Chicken
  • Ground Turkey
  • Veggies (kale, asparagus, string beans, zucchini, brussels, cauliflower, peppers, butternut squash)
  • Shrimp
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Cottage cheese
  • PB
  • Rice cakes
  • Frozen blueberries
  • RX Bars/Quest Bars
  • Unsweetened cashew milk/almond milk

**Not listed here are my kitchen staples (balsamic vinegar, spray/oil, hot sauce, mustard, spices, etc.) as well as my protein powder /BCAAs.**

I’m happy to help you with your own customized macros, meal plan & workout guide! Email me at TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com for more information. If you just want to follow along with me & be accountability buddies, that’s cool too! Shoot me a message so we can help each other out! Let’s get beach body ready & Fight to be Fit together!

-Gina

Take Fitness on Vacation

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It’s hard to believe…or even accept…but summer is almost over! With Labor Day weekend upon us, I thought this would be the perfect time to share some of my tips for staying fit on vacation!
Let’s face it – we’ve all been guilty of considering a vacation our “reward” after dedicating ourselves to eating healthy and working out. It’s perfectly fine to indulge a little and let yourself truly enjoy your vacation. However, you can make tons of memories without destroying all of your hard work!
For starters, you can keep up with your workouts! One of my favorite ways to get some exercise while on vacation is to run or walk by the beach! Get up a little early and hit the boardwalk before the heat kicks in! You can even add some strength training to the mix. Be creative and just soak in the moment – after all, it’s not everyday that you can run next to or on a beach! Another great idea – hiking! Find a trail or mountain near where you’re staying and spend your morning exploring. You can even include your whole tribe on the fun! Lastly, when all else fails – workout in the hotel! Even if the hotel you’re staying at doesn’t have a gym on-site, you can get creative and workout in your room. A short workout to begin the day is better than none at all 🙂
Now, the hard part – food & drinks. I’m okay with indulging here and there – especially if it’s foods you would not be able to get or wouldn’t eat at home. However, often times people use a vacation as an excuse to just eat everything in sight. You’ve spent months getting ready for this vacation – so why throw it all away now? You can still eat reasonably healthy while enjoying a few treats from time to time. Pick and choose! For instance, if you want that Belgian waffle for breakfast make sure to have a salad for lunch and a sensible dinner. If you want to enjoy a few pina coladas poolside, just make concessions elsewhere throughout your day.
It can be hard to stay on track especially when you go to a fast-paced place like Las Vegas. Las Vegas is known for many things…but being a healthy vacation destination is not one of them. However, you can make it work no matter where you are! In Las Vegas, you can enjoy all of the sights and sounds the town has to offer…by walking the strip!
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The Las Vegas Deals page on Vegas.com has deals on tours of that very strip as well as tours of the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and more! It’s the perfect way to exercise while exploring & enjoying time with loved ones. Vegas.com also offers some fantastic deals on hotels & those once in a lifetime shows that only Las Vegas can offer. Go check them out!
Whether you’re hitting the Vegas strip, heading to the Caribbean on a cruise, or just heading to your nearest shore point, you can still be healthy while making memories that will last a lifetime. The most important thing to remember is to enjoy yourself and not spend every waking second agonizing over a few extra calories or a few less workouts. Don’t stress it; just do your best to be as healthy as possible while having the time of your life.
As always, feel free to shoot me an email at TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com if you have questions about anything in this post or any of my online coaching/nutrition packages.
Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

 

Exercise & Invisible Illness

 

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Anyone who suffers from an invisible illness can testify to the effect that it has on you, mentally & physically.

I suffer from two different invisible illnesses, PCOS & CFS. The PCOS has been under control for many years however I have been experiencing a very bad flare-up…which has caused my CFS to go mad. The combination has caused my workouts to stop, my weight to rise, and my mind to go bonkers. Let’s back up a bit so I can explain better.

Unbeknownst to me, the  (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) began in high school. I would get extremely sick every month and end up sent home from school, doubled over in pain. Soon after my graduation I went for my first ob-gyn appointment, and learned that there was a reason for my misery. I was placed on birth control and, barring some issues along the way, have mostly been fine ever since. Until now. Up until recently, I have not had the insurance to warrant my regular exams or medication. The results have my weight sky rocketing, my sugar cravings going absolutely MAD, my hormones completely out of whack, my skin breaking out like a teenager,  and my lower back in chronic discomfort. The more research I do, the more I realize I have been suffering with various symptoms of this all along but since the pain was gone, I had no idea. It also seems that some of my stomach problems may be linked to this. While there is no concrete evidence, I’m finding that the “PCOS-friendly” diet is actually the diet that helped my stomach most when I followed it a while back. While I do follow the high protein/low carb diet, I have been on sugar overload. Now I may love candy but even I can admit that my cravings have been out of control lately. All of this has my wheels turning and thinking that perhaps PCOS has been the cause of all of my health issues all along…but since it is not a proven fact I will just let that be for now. What I can say is that the PCOS, combined with my insane stress levels, have caused my CFS to run wild.

CFS, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is something that is very hard to explain…and even more difficult for people to understand. There are no visible signs. Your body aches as though you have a very high fever or the flu and you get extremely tired and feel this overwhelming sense of fatigue that no amount of sleep seems to cure. Your immune system also gets significantly weakened with CFS. Some days it just feels like my body is fighting a losing battle within itself.

With the combination PCOS & CFS wreaking havoc on my body, my exercise routine has taken a BIG hit. So much so, that my Summertime Shred has been put on hold. It’s been really hard on me mentally but I know it’s for the best. I have been doing my best to follow a very good (PCOS-friendly) diet and exercise whenever possible, but it’s still taking a toll on me.

Often times people who suffer from CFS feel as though they don’t have the energy for simple tasks such as going to work or taking a shower. That’s exactly where I’m at. Lately just getting myself out of bed has been a chore in and of itself. However, seeing how much you can accomplish and improve over time by exercising can be a big motivator and a way to feel better, both physically and mentally. I am doing my best to get some type of exercise in every day, no matter how little it may be.

A common trend that came up in my research for both CFS & PCOS is that of walking & yoga. Both seem to be exercises that are extremely effective and favorable to both illnesses. As the weather gets warmer (HELLOOO SPRING!!), I have been incorporating walks more & more into my daily routine. Despite the fact that I am not the biggest fan of walking, it does make me feel good to get my body moving. Since it seems to be working well for my body, I find myself doing this most often.

I have also found myself stretching a lot more. I’ve tried to take advantage of the foam rollers around me and, while I have never been the biggest yogi, I’ve also been using several yoga poses to help with managing the aches & pains. It has been proven that certain yoga poses promote hormonal balance and deep relaxation, which help to bring the adrenal and cortisol levels of otherwise stressed-out PCOS minds and bodies in check, while assisting in healing from chronic inflammation. The more my lower back hurts, the more I find myself gravitating towards this practice. Right now I’m doing some of the stretches/poses myself however, I may be trying out some yoga classes (or dusting off my old SkinnyGirl dvd) one day very soon.

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If you are like me and have grown accustomed to a structured strength training regimen, having chronic pain & fatigue can be torture. However, I have found that resistance bands, in all their simplistic glory, are quite the amazing resource in such times. The bands are designed to keep your strength training up with as little impact & intensity as possible. Your muscles will feel as though they had a monster workout but you are actually putting in half the effort you normally would.

I have also found in my research…and my own experience…that it is often easier to divide daily exercise into two sessions, to avoid symptom flare-ups. Activity may be alternating and brief, spread throughout the day and/or followed by rest. If you experience a worsening of symptoms, you should return to the most recent manageable level of activity.

It’s important to keep in mind the following when beginning a workout routine, under the stress of any chronic pain/illness:

  • The more gentle the exercise, the better it will likely be for you. It may seem like you are doing nothing (especially at first) however it’s important to ease into a new routine that will suit your current needs.
  • Start slow – It’s not about the ego! I’m guilty of trying to do more than my body will allow but it’s critical to monitor your symptoms and adjust your workouts accordingly.
  • Push yourself to get moving, but don’t push yourself to do more until you know you’re ready. You want to make sure you get your body going…but not overdo it to the point you make a bad situation worse.
  • Expect some setbacks – you’ll need to experiment to find your current level of tolerance.
  • Remember that exertion comes in all forms. Don’t try to exercise on a day that you’re also going to the grocery store or doing something else that’s strenuous.
  • Take breaks when you need them, but don’t give up! The payoff could be less pain, more energy and a better quality of life.

**Note: Many people who suffer from chronic illness/pain are so ill they can barely get out of bed, let alone leave their home. In this instance, there should be a very modified & careful approach to exercise. Hand stretches and picking up/grasping objects may be all that can be managed at first. Gradually increasing activity to the point where you can handle essential activities of daily living such as getting up, personal hygiene and dressing would be the next step. Those in this situation, should focus on improving flexibility and minimizing the impact of deconditioning so they can slowly increase function enough to manage basic activities.

I always struggle with sharing my setbacks on here and on my Instagram but the goal has always been to inspire others by sharing my story…no matter how good or bad it may be. I want you all to see that no matter how hard things get and whatever life throws your way – it IS possible. I have been feeling really defeated lately, especially as I am trying to build a fitness business. However, I know that I work hard and I will get myself back to looking AND feeling good soon enough. As a matter of fact, I have recently obtained insurance and have already begun taking the necessary steps to alleviate this whole mess! I may not be able to crank out my own crazy workouts right now but that doesn’t mean I can’t help others achieve their goals. I know how hard this journey is and I know what it takes to succeed. I have always said that nothing worth having comes easy – and this is by far the biggest test of that. The best advice I can give anyone (including myself) is to take it one day at a time…one step at a time…and above all, just keep going!

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

Summertime Struggles

Hey everyone! Sorry I haven’t been posting much this summer. I’ve actually been struggling a lot with various medical issues, specifically with my breathing trouble. I guess that’s made me feel defeated in some ways. I worked really hard to get to this place and the last thing I want to do is go backwards.

Back in May, I completed a very vigorous 4 Weeks to Fit challenge—which got me in shape for bathing suit season and into a size 2-4. A few weeks after that challenge, I completed the Roc Race in Philadelphia….and the struggles began. I ended up hurting my shoulder on the monkey bars obstacle. Although that put my lifting on hold, I still maintained cardio and leg days. Everything was going pretty well…so I thought.

About a month ago, I went for a run in my neighborhood. I made it about two miles before I started feeling weird. I decided to stop running and walk the rest of the way back to my apartment. However when I got to my steps, my vision blurred and I was shaking. By the time I got through my door I could barely see anything in front of me. I sat down and everything went black. I must’ve passed out because the next thing I knew I was waking up on my floor, drenched in sweat. It was really scary and I still don’t really know what caused it.

Thankfully, that hasn’t happened since but my running has really suffered. I find myself getting worn out much faster than usual and my running has slowed down drastically. I also notice I am sweating much more than normal. Oddly enough, the only good run I’ve had recently was the day I ran four miles. It was the first time that I ever ran that far and despite it being almost 37 minutes of running, I wasn’t super tired and I was able to continue my normal workout routine after. I am still running but I find myself getting exhausted and being afraid to push myself, which causes me to stop much sooner than I’d like. I have spoken to my doctor, who advised me to come in ASAP for a breathing test and to get a new inhaler. Hopefully after the appointment and test is done (which I was lucky enough to get in two weeks), this issue can be solved.

I preach a lot about the importance of motivation and surrounding yourself with genuinely supportive people during this process. In the past, these obstacles would have been an excuse to give up. I didn’t have a support system or the mental strength to push through the hard times. In fact, I spent the majority of my life surrounded by negative people and a lot of negative energy. I didn’t know how to be positive or happy…until now.

Though I may have struggled most of the summer, I still workout almost every day. I always go by the motto: go hard or go home–and while my workouts may not always be intense, I give it 100%. I am blessed to now have someone there pick me up when I fall and not let me beat myself up for things I can’t control. I try my best to keep a positive attitude because no matter how bad things may seem, they can always be worse

My advice to those of you who may be struggling: surround yourself with great people and keep a positive energy. You will be amazed at how different your mindset becomes. Your struggles may not change but your reaction to them will. Keep your head up and always remember: nothing worth having comes easy.

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Stay strong and stay in the fight!

-Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

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Progress NOT Perfection

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Happy Monday fellow beach bums! I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved the beach. The sound of waves crashing, the feeling of sand between your toes, the sun shining down on you…it’s just always been my happy place. It’s a place where you can be carefree and put all of your worries on the back burner for the day. No matter how self conscious I may have been putting on a bathing suit at whatever weight I was over the years, I made sure to push that to the back of my mind the minute my feet hit the sand.

This summer something has been different. For the first time in my whole life, I think I’m finally becoming comfortable in my own skin. I tend to fall into old habits of putting myself down, probably to do it before someone else can. However, lately I’ve been looking in the mirror – not just glancing at whatever part of my face is getting makeup or the specific shirt I put on, but really looking. And what I see has been truly surprising. The hard work is really paying off…and it’s even better to be able to acknowledge that myself and not need someone else’s approval. That’s how I know that after struggling my whole life with diets, eating disorders and much more, it will actually last this time. I’m on this journey for myself…to create my own happiness and be the person I really want to be. They say you should strive for progress not perfection—and now I understand why. There really is no such thing as perfect after all.

For those of you embarking on your own journey, keep your head up. Remember: nothing worth having comes easy. You may not see a physical change every day or even every week but those changes are happening. Little by little you will start gaining more confidence and getting stronger mentally and physically. Above all, remember why you began this journey. Do it for yourself, create your own happiness…and you will be amazed with yourself in the end.

Stay strong and stay in the fight!

-Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

 

Mind Over Matter

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Happy summer everyone! It’s been quite a while since I last wrote. We’re approaching a difficult day of the year for me and these last few weeks I just haven’t been myself. While I’ve been maintaining consistency with my diet and exercise (specifically running), I checked out mentally. I guess you can say that I’ve been given a crucial lesson on the importance of maintaining a positive attitude.

Rather than pushing forward and focusing on all of the positive changes and things in my life, I’ve been having bad moments…which included a good pity party, tears and all. After wasting time feeling sorry for myself, I had an epiphany – enough is enough. Why am I beating myself up for things I can’t control? Bad things happen but life has to go on. I tend to get in my own head and stand in my own way but that has to change. No one is going to do this for me and it’s time I took responsibility for myself rather than relying on others for motivation. I know that not every day will be perfect and I’ve made a promise to myself: these days of pity parties and self loathing are not going to happen anymore.

It’s been said that God doesn’t give you things that you can’t handle and with every struggle comes strength. I have been through a lot in my life but I can finally say that I am becoming content with most aspects of my life…and with myself. So why let one bad event ruin all of the good I’ve put forth since? I don’t want to go back to the miserable, negative person that I used to be—someone who was truly unhappy with her life and mostly everything in it.

My journey is far from over and, in many ways, it’s just beginning. I know that I have come very far and I get stronger every day. I also realize that there will still be days where I’m not motivated and where I feel like ‘what’s the point’—especially when my stomach or other health issues are acting up.  At the end of the day, I should be proud of all that I have accomplished in a short time: I have lost over 70 pounds and gone from a size 12-14 to a size 2-4; I completed an intense 4-week training plan that mimicked that of a fitness/bikini competitor; & I went from being unable to run ¼ mile to running a full 5k, indoors AND outdoors. None of those things were easy but I did them all and I know I can continue to achieve whatever goals I set for myself if I remain positive and focused.

I find that setting goals helps to keep me accountable and makes the daily diet/exercise more fun. While I have completed my big missions/challenges, I have things that I continue to work towards. I completed my second 5k on June 7 (Roc Race) but I hope to complete a full 5k (WITHOUT obstacles) by the end of summer/beginning of fall. I am focused on maintaining my clean eating diet and losing a few more pounds but above all, the mission is to build my confidence and become the best version of myself that I can be. While that may seem cheesy, that’s really my ultimate goal. I’ve spent too many years of my life worried about what other people think of me and not caring what I think of myself. Hopefully, over time, that will change.

The real journey really does begin as you finally start reaching your goals. That being said, the purpose of this blog has always been to motivate others and it is my hope that by sharing my stories–good or bad, you will gain inspiration. Everyone has bad days—its how you overcome the challenges that life presents you that will determine your success. Always remember that no matter what your struggle, it IS possible and that nothing worth having comes easy.

Until next time, stay strong and stay in the fight!

-Gina
TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com