Living with IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is one of the most common health concerns facing Americans today yet it’s one of the least discussed. Many people who have this condition suffer in silence due to it being somewhat of a “taboo” subject or just for not knowing that there is an actual problem.

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The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm as they move food from your stomach through your intestinal tract to your rectum. If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the contractions may be stronger and last longer than normal which will cause gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea. The opposite can also occur with weak intestinal contractions, slowing food passage and leading to hard, dry stools. Abnormalities in your gastrointestinal nervous system also may play a role, causing you to experience greater than normal discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas or stool. Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the intestines can make your body overreact to the changes that normally occur in the digestive process. This overreaction can cause pain, diarrhea or constipation.

As many as 1 in 5 American adults experience signs and/or symptoms of IBS. There are two common forms of IBS – IBS-C, with constipation, and IBS-D, with diarrhea. It is unknown what causes IBS but there are many factors, including family history, which are considered to be a trigger for those suffering with this illness.

One of the biggest triggers for IBS is a person’s diet. Many people have more severe symptoms when they eat certain things. Some doctors will recommend doing an elimination diet to pinpoint what the exact trigger food(s) could be. Some other recommendations include: eliminating high-gas foods such as carbonated beverages, vegetables (especially cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower) and raw fruits, eliminating gluten (wheat, barley, and rye) or avoiding refined (not whole) grains, eliminating FODMAPs, avoiding high protein diets, limiting or eliminating caffeine (such as coffee), and experimenting with fiber intake. A person suffering with IBS should eat smaller meals and drink plenty of liquids, especially water! It’s also important to note that a person with this illness should be careful with their dairy intake, regardless if they are lactose intolerant or not.

Another common trigger for IBS sufferers is stress. Many people find that their symptoms are worsened or brought on during periods of increased stress. While stress certainly will aggravate your symptoms, there has not been any research found to cause them.

Women, especially under the age of 45, are twice as likely to develop IBS. Researchers believe that this is due to hormonal changes. Many women find that their symptoms are more prevalent during or around their menstrual cycle. IBS worsens as hormone levels fall. As hormone levels fall to the lowest point during menstruation, symptoms such as stomach pain, discomfort, and constipation or diarrhea become more common and intense. What’s worse, those who suffer from painful periods, are twice as likely to have an increase in symptoms.

Even though the signs and symptoms are uncomfortable IBS, unlike ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (which are forms of inflammatory bowel disease), doesn’t cause changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk for colorectal cancer. Some symptoms that may indicate a more serious condition include rectal bleeding, abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night, and/or weight loss.

While there is no cure for IBS, there are certain things that have been proven to alleviate some of the symptoms. One easy remedy is to exercise regularly. Incorporating regular exercise into your routine will not only help you to look & feel better about yourself, it will also help to stimulate normal contractions in your intestines. If you’ve been inactive, start slowly and gradually increase the amount of time you exercise. If you have other medical problems, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Another form of therapy, while non-traditional, is the use of herbs such as peppermint. Peppermint is a natural antispasmodic that relaxes smooth muscles in the intestines. It’s important to note that while it may ease your IBS symptoms, peppermint may increase heartburn. Before taking any herbs, check with your doctor to be sure they won’t interact or interfere with other medications. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that normally live in your intestines and are found in certain foods, such as yogurt and in dietary supplements. It’s been suggested that if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you may not have enough good bacteria so by adding probiotics to your diet, you may ease your symptoms.

IBS can be a long-lasting problem that can impact how you live your life. Many people with IBS miss work or school more often and they may feel less comfortable taking part in daily activities. If you feel that you may have IBS, contact your doctor for further testing.

**This article was originally published with The Arena – all references for the information given above can be found on that site.

 

Control Your Mind & Conquer Your Body


You’ve been working hard and seeing some serious results. You start allowing yourself a few more treats…you skip a few days at the gym…you tell yourself you earned it. You still work out and eat fairly well, but as time goes by, you start noticing that your clothes get a little tighter or that some of the pudge around the middle came back. All of a sudden it seems that while you’re still living a somewhat healthy lifestyle the weight is coming back. Now what? How can you avoid this seemingly inevitable slip backwards? Read on!

Research has shown that over 80% of those who lose weight actually gain it back (and then some) within two years. This doesn’t just take a toll mentally, but it also causes our body physical harm. Not only is the extra weight a health risk, but recent studies have linked the gain-lose-gain cycle to potentially life-threatening conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, heart disease, and cancer. Let’s discuss some ways in which you can prevent this from happening.

Get your mind right…and everything else will follow. That’s my number one key to success. That’s my big secret. There are no quick fixes to losing weight. You need to get your head in the game…and keep it there…if you want to maintain weight loss. It’s not easy. We work so hard to take the weight off, so that once a few pounds creep back on, we feel like we just undid everything. That’s not true. Life happens. Maybe we missed a few workouts or deviated from our diet a little, but as long as you keep your mind on the end goal, it won’t matter. Get right back to the gym and to your regular workouts when you can. Be stricter with your diet after those events pass. Everything will eventually fall back into place.

If I’ve learned anything over a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and weight struggles, it’s that deprivation is almost always the root of all evil with weight loss. Taking out the foods that you love will only lead to you binging on them later. I always use this rule of thumb: wait a half hour (or the length of one TV show). If you still want that snack/food, have a little. It will be better than eating twice as much later on. Also, consider having your favorite “unhealthy” snack as a treat rather than a cheat. People will often feel guilty when they think of themselves “cheating” on their new healthier lifestyle. If you look at is as a treat, you will look forward to it and there will be less guilt afterwards. Be sure to control your portions; just because it’s a treat meal doesn’t mean you should go nuts. Indulge a little, but still practice moderation. When in doubt, opt for a healthier version of your favorite “unhealthy” food. Almost everything has a healthy alternative. For example, choose guacamole or salsa rather than queso or another dip. Select frozen yogurt or protein based ice creams instead of the more fattening brands. Try to cook or bake your favorite foods so you can control what goes into it. You can create healthy options which may not be the actual food you are craving, but they are satisfying enough to have the same effect. Get creative! If you genuinely enjoy what you eat, it will make sticking with your plan that much easier.

In addition to diet, you MUST continue working out. It will keep your metabolism moving and keep those extra pounds/inches from creeping back on. Switch up your routine often to avoid plateaus…and boredom. Continue to set goals for yourself, even if you’ve already lost weight and/or accomplished the original goal(s) set for yourself. Setting small goals and switching your routine will keep you motivated and keep you moving.

An often overlooked key to success is the importance of surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people – people who will lift you up and keep you motivated. Not everyone will understand your journey and that’s ok – after all, it’s YOUR journey not theirs. However, it’s important to your success to have at least one person standing by your side to provide encouragement, especially on those hard days. This will not only keep you accountable, but it will keep your head in the game.

Besides getting your mind right, it’s also important to get your body right too. Schedule an appointment with your doctor and have him/her check your hormone levels. Your hormones control every aspect of weight loss, including your metabolism, where you store your fat, your appetite, and even your cravings. Your stubborn belly fat may actually be caused by a hormonal imbalance, such as high estrogen, low testosterone, low DHEA (a hormone of the adrenal glands), high insulin and high cortisol. It’s also important to check on your thyroid. Monitoring these levels will help keep you on track.

Anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight will tell you that the journey never really ends. It will take time and a lot of work, but eventually you will get to a place where you have never felt freer in your whole life. It really is an amazing thing. Keep in mind it took you more than one day to gain the weight so it certainly will take more than one to lose it! As hard as it is, and as bad as it may seem, know that it really WILL be worth it in the end.

Stay strong & stay in the fight 💕

Gina

Fighting to be Fit…3 Years later!!

 

I’m about a week late but…Happy 3-year Blogiversary to all of us!! Thank you all for your continued support as we Fight to be Fit!

I had big plans for this little blog last year but life had different ideas. 2016 was a rough year for most of us…and I was no exception. I suffered a major setback with my health, in the form of severe chronic fatigue and the reappearance of my PCOS symptoms. On top of that, my shoulder finally gave out on me & I had no choice but to undergo surgery. It’s been a really long road…but I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

For starters, I’m officially 3-months post op! Although I still have pain, I’m 1000% better than I was before. My range of motion isn’t perfect but it’s definitely improved. I’m finally able to raise my arms above my head without pain, which is something I haven’t been able to do in over two years! Despite my progress, I get in my head a lot. I think about how hard I worked and where I was before this injury happened. My workouts have resumed but they are nothing like they once were. It’s a huge adjustment mentally but I’m trying my very best to focus on the positives. I may not be able to lift heavy or do the exercises I once loved, but I will be able to soon. Deep down I know that if I push myself too far too soon, I will only make matters worse…and set myself back even further.

As far as my health goes, I have good and bad days. My chronic fatigue has gotten much better, which I believe is due in large part to a supplement called Adrenal Restore. That shit is magic. I wrote a whole review about it last year…and everything still holds true today. My PCOS symptoms have been horrible. I’ve developed pretty debilitating migraines, which sent me to the ER earlier in the year. All things considered though, that’s been mostly under control and since that episode have rarely happened.

The surgery mixed with my health issues definitely set me back with my weight loss. I gained back a good 20lbs over the last year….and it definitely wasn’t muscle. I went from weighing over 200lbs to getting myself ripped to something in the middle.

I won’t pretend that I’m happy about the setbacks or that I’m proud of where I’m at. However, despite my physical setbacks I learned that mentally I’m stronger than ever. Sure I have bad days like everyone else…but rather than get discouraged by the bad I’m using it as motivation. I know if I keep working hard and stick to a (mostly) clean diet, I will see great results. Hell, I’m already seeing some drastic improvements!

November 2016 >> December 2016


Being on a weight loss journey really teaches you the art of patience…and about yourself. We are all much stronger than we know and it’s not until we are truly put to the test that we realize our full potential. That being said, I won’t make any elusive promises or grand gestures as we go into our 4th year. My goal is simple: continue to inspire all of you reading and give you all hope that no matter how hard life gets or what obstacles you face, it IS possible. After all, nothing worth having comes easy 🙂

Let’s all continue this Fight to be Fit together throughout 2017…& beyond!

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

Gina

 

Turning a Setback into a Comeback

img_0451Happy holidays everyone!! I am a little over 2 months post-op and I’m feeling great!! Slowly but surely I’m getting back to normalcy. My pain is almost non-existent and I have been using real weights in physical therapy!! I’m amazed by how quickly I’ve been able to bounce back…and how little pain I experience daily.

Now that I have a semi-normal routine again, here’s how it goes: Mondays and Thursdays is physical therapy. Each session lasts about 45 minutes, during which time I start with the arm bike then proceed on to more fun activities 🙂  I usually start with the seated row followed by lat pulldowns. As of this week, I’m up to 50lbs on the row – which is more than ever before! For the pulldowns, I’m typically at 40lbs but on a good day we go a little heavier. After 3 sets of 10 on both machines, I move along to use the TRX bands which I use for two exercises – The T and The Y.


I always hated TRX and with my current situation, it’s that much worse. Still, I do what I’m told so as to get back to doing what I love on my own. After the TRX (and a healthy dose of complaining), I head over to the tables where get stretched and do a few sets of dumbbell exercises. These include side raises, shoulder extension, and external rotation. Then I stand up to do jumping jacks…without jumping but with weights. My weights for all of these exercises range from 7lbs down to 3, depending on my pain tolerance (which my therapist gauges from the faces I make, since I rarely complain about the weight itself). I also do a swimming exercise, which I must say, is probably one of the most miserable things I’ve done yet. However, like everything else I’m sure a month from now I will sing a different tune. I drop to the floor for a few rounds of shoulder push-ups (or cat-cow) followed by plank to push-up. Lastly, is the VERY best part – ICE!


Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been cleared for any cardio that I desire…so I’ve been taking advantage of that by doing it on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Last week, I also got cleared to begin doing bicep curls and tricep pushdowns on my own! Since all of this is happening, I have begun the process of meal prepping so as to keep my diet in check. I haven’t weighed myself but the transformation I’ve seen in just a couple weeks is crazy!

It’s not perfect but it’s some serious progress! I am SO much further along in my recovery than I ever dreamed. So while I’m not where I wanna be….this is a DAMN good start! The biggest struggle for me thus far has been overcoming the mental aspect. I’ve been out of commission, workout wise, for several months. Seeing how my metabolism works, I know that if I don’t workout I will gain weight. And unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. I worked really hard to get where I am and have been working tirelessly to build a career based on helping others do the same. Seeing myself slide backwards wasn’t pretty but I made it through. As with everything else, whatever struggle or hardship we face often makes us stronger in the end. So rather than dwell on the negatives, I’m taking my setback and using it to form my biggest comeback yet! If you are facing any obstacle, I challenge you to do the same. After all, pain is temporary…but quitting lasts forever.

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

Gina

 

Staying True to ME

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It’s been a long time since I wrote anything here. Truthfully, I took a step back. The goal of this blog is and always has been to share my story and hopefully inspire others with similar struggles. Somehow that has gotten away from me. I got really caught up in low viewership and rather than stick to my original purpose, I became defeated. We live in an age driven by likes on social media and often we get away from the truest forms of ourselves. Well, I noticed that happening and decided to re-evaluate everything.

I am taking this back to where it should have gone. Now that I’m a certified personal trainer and am working on my nutrition certification as well, I’ve decided to clean this blog up a bit. As I look back on my posts I realize they seem to read like a diary. So that’s where the change will happen. I will still post some of my experiences along with the occasional product review but I want to stick to posting about nutritional advice and various workout/training tips. It will still be my own spin on things because the advice and tips I give will be, in large part, driven from my own experience(s). After all, what separates me from other trainers isn’t so much my knowledge but my lifetime of experience. None of us are reinventing the wheel but I’ve been there…and sometimes I still am there. So, this blog will continue to be about just that…minus the dear diary moments. I’ve said in the past I wanted to be more consistent but this time I will stick to it…and there WILL be a post every week. I want to help as many people as possible so I hope that by sharing my story and including some education, someone out there can say that I really have inspired them.

Lastly, I will be including some of my personal training/online coaching specials on here, in order to create a broader outreach. I promise to not turn this into a sales page however I do want to share the offers (which are presently on social media) with my blog viewers. This is the current special that I’m running for the summer:

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For questions regarding anything on this blog including training or coaching, you can email me at TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com.

Until next week, 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

1st Phorm Product Review: Adrenal Restore

For the last 10 years, I have suffered with Chronic Fatigue. Many symptoms come and go but the fatigue is always present. I’ve taken vitamins, gotten injections, and tried various other remedies but nothing has worked. Until now.

Enter Adrenal Restore, from the awesome people at 1st Phorm. This has truly been my magic pill. I’ve been using it for about three weeks now and it has completely changed my life. I went from barely being able to move out of bed to being back at full speed in the gym, while balancing the rest of my hectic life. I have tested it by using it a few days then taking a few off. Let me tell you – I feel a HUGE difference when I take the pills. The aches and pains are almost non-existent, my energy is insane, and even my sleep has improved.

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Here’s a little background on the pills themselves and how they help you:

From 1st Phorm: “The potent ingredients of Adrenal Restore reduce physical and mental stress, minimize caffeine headaches, reduce cortisol levels to help minimize fat storage and optimize natural energy levels.”

Since beginning these pills, I have drastically cut down my coffee intake – going from a MINIMUM of 4 cups per day down to one. My energy levels have been much higher than it has in months so I haven’t needed that extra caffeine boost. I also notice that while I may not be getting extra hours of sleep, I feel much more rested when I wake up. Best of all, I am able to lead a normal life without the aches & pains wearing me down.

More from 1st Phorm: “Your Adrenal glands play a huge role in your every day function and how well your body operates. They are responsible for some major hormones like DHEA, Cortisol, Progesterone, testosterone, Adrenaline and over 40 others. These hormones can be thrown out of whack due to the strain placed on your adrenal glands through training, stress in life, anxiety patterns, stimulants, and countless external stressors. No matter what gender someone is, they are susceptible to the negative side effects of having there hormones being out of whack. This is where the term adrenal fatigue comes in: being chronically tired, trouble getting up after good sleep, cravings for food, getting sick more easily, not feeling the effects of stimulants like caffeine, feeling over whelmed… and the list goes on. Now, Adrenal Restore is an all-natural product designed to help reduce those side effects and get your adrenal glands back to proper function. This is done with the vitamins and herbs in the capsules. Here is a list of ingredients. You will see that the ingredients listed are proven to be antioxidants, fight fatigue, improve memory, normalizing blood sugar, boosting your immune system, and mood enhancing.”

*As a word of caution: Even though this is a natural supplement, if you are currently on prescription medication you should consult your physician prior to trying these pills.*

I don’t like to promote products for the sake of doing it. This blog is all about sharing my journey to help others facing similar struggles. I truly believe that this pill can help many others who are suffering, just as it helped me. If you are interested in learning more about this product or any others, click here or send me an email at the address below. I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com