Ok so I lived in San Diego from June until November to accomplish many tasks both personally and professionally. First things first, after my strongwoman training and some minor surgery in the early spring, my body needed California sunshine, and lots of positive energy, and like minded, fit people. What better place than Pacific Beach to hone my Amazonian physique? At the beginning of the summer I weighed around 220 pounds. At the end of the summer, I ended up right around a pretty hard, curvaceous 210 pounds, perhaps the highest quality 210 pounds I have ever been. The first time I ever broke the 200 pound barrier was when I lived with my girlfriend, Saskia in Den Hague, Netherlands about four years ago. Since that time, I focused primarily on powerlifting, strength, overhead pressing (mostly people!) and strong woman events.
So, what did I do differently? To be honest, I just had to go out to California to remind myself of my own inner strength and knowledge. Sometimes, I need to go away from something (get out of my comfort zone) and try something new, whether it is a sport, a new city, or new environment that gives me a fresh perspective. The fresh ocean air of Pacific Beach, and my amazing friends and colleagues in San Diego all served as a the much needed shock I needed to break out of my normal patterns of lifestyle. I can't really say that I tried ultra hard dieting, doing hours of cardio and killing myself in the gym. I respect that protocol--when I need to do that sort of thing. For me, I finally understood what many of my closest friends and mentors have been telling me for years. Do not overtrain, do not eat too much, do not eat too little (keto type diets), do not do too much cardio, and for God's sake, do not lift too much! We all hear this, don't we, and how daunting it is, even for pros like me in the trenches, making a living with my not only my body, but my brain and how I present myself to the world. For every theory or philosophy on diet and training, there is an argument against it. It is incumbent upon each individual to find out what works best for him. Do your research, experience different modalities of training and just get out there and do it! Over the years, I have trained with top bodybuilders, strength athletes and others, and each step along the way, I take that knowledge and store it. Sometimes, we need gentle reminders or "refreshers" to bring us back to what we already know.
When I got to San Diego, I met with Sandra Blackie, an IFBB pro from Canada, and as I sat in her office, I asked her if she would help me with my diet and training. She looked at me both baffled and pleased that I asked her. I told her I was being dead serious and wanted to lean down for the summer for my work. She gave me some guidelines on food, which was the most interesting approach I have ever seen on diet, as it called for more of a balanced approach, not fearing carbs, dairy or other purported dietary "evils". She then took me through a few workouts and paced me so I could remember what it felt like to train not only as a bodybuilder, but a person that wants to get in better shape. Initially, I did not think it was very fun, because I am used to hanging out with a bunch of behemoth strong men who take at least 5 minutes or more bullshitting a lot in between sets. Great formula to get freaky strong--not so great if you want to look good. The training made me nauseous, and I was a bit winded, but I got over that fast. I learned to love the intensity in between sets, and getting a "pump"--a stupid term when you are trying to be the strongest bad ass Amazon in the world....but nonetheless, I learned to embrace that feeling and just go with it. Week by week, I could see the veins, leanness and hardness of my physique, and that is always validation that everything is working the way it should. Now mind you, I still have to be super strong for performing my feats of strength such as overhead pressing a person both with one arm and two arms. So, I still go relatively heavy on front presses, whether seated, strict military, or Olympic push presses out of the rack. I typically added about two to three one half hour to forty-five minute cardio sessions per week. By no means did I ever feel like I was getting overwhelmed or over training in the gym. Far from it. In fact, I was lucky if I made it into the gym 2-3 times per week, but when I did, I hit if fast, intense and dirty--kinda the way I like sex a lot, but that's another story! It was more about finding my balance and joy in the training process and my ultimate goal of getting leaner.
In this quest to get leaner, I rarely, if ever, look at the scale. I prefer to use the mirror and the way my clothes fit to see if I need to tweak something. I am pleased to say that I only lost about 10 pounds, but what I did lose was mostly fluff. The other thing I did was I cut out red meat almost entirely, with only the occasional burger or steak. I typically used to eat about 8-12 ounces of lean wild game. Quite costly, but very tasty. I found that by switching to organic free range chicken and turkey and cutting my portions to about 1/2 the normal protein intake I normally ate, naturally leaned me out without me even really thinking about it or trying too hard. I call this "natural caloric restriction". I also like to eat a lot of Thai and sushi and how can you go wrong in San Diego with so many choices? So, although I may have eaten out quite often, it was always a good clean food source. I have learned that I do not really need to eat quite as much protein to look good and be strong. I think there is an overwhelming amount of literature mostly from the meat and dairy industries that promote this false logic since we were kids in school. My morning meal consisted of oatmeal or cream of wheat with 1 cup of egg whites (10 egg whites) and some berries and soy or almond milk. Then the rest of the day was mostly a little turkey or chicken with vegetables. I also stopped slamming protein shakes indiscriminately. I would usually have about 50 grams of protein (2 scoops) with some water every time I was slightly hungry and before and after training sessions. Old habits die hard, don't they? Old school bodybuilding and power lifting habits. Admittedly going from 155 pounds leaned down figure girl 10 years ago to a 220 pounds world class strong woman, I had to learn how to eat big! Arguably, when one is trying to get bigger, stronger and gain weight, this is perfectly fine. But what I did not realize, was I was ingesting perhaps an additional 600 calories a day more in protein (and, in reality, closer to 1,000 with the additional portions of red meat) that my body did not really need, therefore, making me softer and not as lean and hard as I desired. I have Sandra to thank for that--she told me to cut out the protein shakes. As I said, sometimes in life, we need guides and mentors to remind us of where we are going. Thank you, Sandra!
I enjoy the "endless summer" of San Diego, and I did not want to see her go--and it is so easy to stay in summer mode in Pacific Beach. By early fall, I was hired to do some work for a company, Aziani Iron. Their set is very similar to my good friend, Denise Masino. They do the hair and make up perfectly, making the models totally glamorous, and the lighting and set was gorgeous home in Los Angeles. I really did not plan on shooting with this company, as they called me on the fly while I was at the Olympia in Las Vegas in late September. Buzz, the owner of the company, was super professional and very down to earth, which is always great and made me feel comfortable, enabling me to present my best package. But, I am glad I did my homework early this summer, and decided to prepare myself so I was ready when opportunity knocks. Nothing is worse in life than being ill prepared for whatever comes your way. And, nothing is better when things fall into place--by design. So, no matter what you do in life, personally or professionally, it's always good to find the beauty in balance. Not doing too much or too little of anything--but finding that perfect balance, being in the zone of what truly makes you happy. Which makes you a productive, beneficial person to all those around you and all those you touch in the world.