Mom bikini competitor Post-Show recap

I think I'm going to go about this in reverse. I'll start with how the show went and what happens post-show because this is the most important part, in terms of health. Then you can check back and see how I prepped and how I feel about that (hint, it was hard!)
The show I did was the All Star Championships in Kansas City and it was a great time. My show day started off with a hitch, the make up person never showed up to our hotel room! But the weird thing is I wasn't stressing... (and she eventually showed, 3 hours later).  Well the day was wonderful and after a healthier prep then I've ever done, I was relaxed and had fun the whole day but was I was SOOO looking forward to my trailmix and Platano chips (dried plantains) that I packed for post show treats. So I really just wanted to to be over :)  

I am not one that likes to be the center of attention but when I get on stage I just feel like I'm showing my hard work and I nail it as best as I can, and I feel great about it. I'm in my own little world. I did stumble on the very last turn which did not help my placing. I was dead center in first callouts the whole time (usually a good thing, last time that happened I got 1st place) but on the last turn I stumbled and almost fell...should have practiced more. That's all it is, practice, and I really didn't spend as much on it as I should have. Well, I ended up with 3rd place after being center...or left of center at least...the whole time. I'm still super happy about that!! 10 months postpartum and eating Thai food and sushi up until the last week...yeah, I had a great time.   Backstage everyone is so nice, they all talked about what they were going to eat and it was amazing how much they planned on eating, I was drooling. I would have LOVED to hit up some of those restaurants with them and have a doughnut or a burger and sweet potato fries...but I didn't.... Why is it different for some of us? read on:

I had ABs the next morning after the show when MOST don't, you know why? Because I didn't binge that night...oh I WANTED to...but I didn't GET to. Everyone was getting showered off, dolled up and stuffed with food and drinks...while I went to the hotel, nursed for what felt like 3 hours straight, and ate a ton of rice cakes with peanut butter and jelly (the same snack I'd been eating all day), trail mix and platano (plantain) chips. That's fries, pizza or anything fun. I even slept in my tan and bikini bottoms because I couldn't get out from under the baby.... It was gross. But I wanted cuddles. They were great.
When you're a mom of 2 little ones that just want cuddles and need milk, it's what you do. Competition life is different for everyone. Mine did not consist of a total focus during workouts, uninterrupted cardio or splurge meals after winning a medal. It was all mommy all the time, feeding during workouts, getting toys during cardio, avoiding little fingers while riding the bike....even at 2am post show eating rice cakes. And I enjoyed every single minute!

Micronutrients: Do I need them??

What is a "MICRO" and why should I eat them? 

This is the second part in my mini-series about IIFYM; aka Flexible Dieting; aka Counting Macros.  We learned that "macros" are protein, fat and carbohydrates and are the calorie containing components of all foods.  But most foods also have vitamins and minerals that we need to eat...the MICRONUTRIENTS. So if all food is made of protein, fat and/or carbs where do the vitamins, minerals and fiber come from that we see on the nutrition labels?  Well, the come from the same foods. These are considered "micronutrients" because they are only needed in small amounts...hence, "micros". These vitamins and minerals are important for growth, development and disease prevention.

They are necessary and you must ingest them, they are not made by your body. They are found more readily available in healthier, whole, nutrient dense foods (meat, veggies, fruit, oats) and not so much in processed, boxed, packaged foods. Though packaged food can be fortified with vitamins it is wiser to get more natural "clean foods" (for lack of a better term). Plus, the more whole and less processed the food is, the more you get to eat of it because they are typically less caloric!

When tracking macros for fat lass a person could easily hit their protein, fat and carbs by eating protein powder, cereal, donuts and pizza...this is actually possible. But this person's nutrition would be nearly void of all vitamins and minerals! Vitamin C, Calcium, Vitamin A, magnesium, iron...not enough of any of those in the foods this person is consuming, even though they are still hitting their macros. They will see fat-loss, yes, but they may hit a plateau sooner and they will certainly be hurting their overall health. Their immune system may take a hit. They may feel rundown. They will probably even have issues with bodily functions as well.  This is why BALANCE in food choices is important.

Now, you could get the same things from pill-form vitamins but you would need a lot of vitamins to get what you would need on a daily basis, plus, most people like eating food! I'm not against vitamins, I do take a good multi-vitamin myself, but only to fill in any holes I may have. I do not rely on my vitamin pill for my micro nutrients, so much so that if I don't take it I don't stress, I'll get it the next day.

So how do you track them if you decide to count macros (iifym) for fat-loss?  You find a good food tracking app and as you log you food you will see that, as long as they are entered off the label correctly, the vitamins are also being calculated. (Hint: when tracking veggies and fruit with no label I look up the USDA listing in myfitnesspal, it is usually spot on).
Remember, this way of eating and constructing your meals is not a new concept but one that is well proven by science.  It is a way to construct your daily intake of calories and nutrients that, as long as you stick to it, will give you the best results and body composition (muscle to fat ratio).  It is not "calorie counting" but rather "macro tracking."      

There are many great apps out there: (free- but the paid version will let you track specific macros)
Macros by calorie count (android- free)
Macros+ (Iphone)
 **If this sounds scary or confusing and leaves you wondering how to even begin, I can help you with that.  You won't weigh and track forever, it's a learning tool!

Macronutrients, IIFYM?? Fat loss

Is Flexible Dieting for YOU?

What is a "Macro" and why should I eat them?

 *scroll to the bottom for a cheat sheet!

A "macro" is a short term for Macro-nutrient.  Macro-nutrients are protein, fat and carbohydrates.  These three macro-nutrients make up the calorie content of all foods.  Any type of food will have a combo of protein, fat and/or carbs or it can be just one of these macros; oil, for example, is just fat. Peanut butter is fat, protein and carbs.  All three of these macros have a caloric value assigned to them and however many grams of each macro a food has determines the total calories in the food.  By reaching for macros during your day rather than just overall calories you will be eating for optimal fat-loss and body composition. All three are very important for overall health.  Note, ALL three, we do not cut out a nutrient (i.e. carbs- because vegetables and fruit are carbs, we need those!) for weight loss.

This way of eating and constructing your meals is not a new concept but one that is well proven by science.  It is a way to construct your daily intake of calories and nutrients that, as long as you stick to it, will give you the best results and body composition (muscle to fat ratio).  It is not "calorie counting" but rather "macro tracking."      

It is a way to eat the foods you like while still hitting the weight-loss or health goals you are shooting for.  As long as you get foods to fit into the numbers calculated for your specific body, activity and goals then you can eat it...if it fits into your calculated macros for the day, it's fine!  This is a wonderfully flexible way of eating that will make your life easier and make reaching your goals a sustainable lifestyle, because you get to eat what is enjoyable.  It is also important to reach for healthy foods but this lifestyle makes it so you get your treats every now and then and are less likely to "fall off the wagon" or binge.

How do I track them?
First you need to know what they are for you, this is done by getting them calculated for you at your current fitness state (I can do that for you!).  The best way to track is to measure what you eat, by cups, tablespoons or, ideally, grams on a kitchen food sale.  Make sure you get the right amount that you are eating then plug them into an app and start logging your food. You will eventually learn what are great choices that help you hit your daily goals.

There are many great apps out there: (free- but the paid version will let you track specific macros)
Macros by calorie count (android- free)
Macros+ (Iphone)
 **If this sounds scary or confusing and leaves you wondering how to even begin, I can help you with that.  Nutrition counseling is fast and easy and you'll get step by step help, by phone or email assistance along the priority is simply to guide you to a healthier lifestyle.  You won't weigh and track forever, it's a learning tool!

So, macros are the building blocks of food, which is the building block of your body.  You eat them every single day without even thinking about it. You can choose which foods of each macro you want to eat and how to arrange them or which way of eating you prefer, I.e. vegetarian, vegan, paleo or simply "normal", it all contains macros!  If you eat them in the right proportions, right amounts of each for your fat-loss or body-reshaping journey then you will see much greater success.

Macro cheat sheet, what goes into what category?!


Getting a little personal with D-MER

This post isn't all about fitness, it's mostly about life and something that few moms might need to read about. I just hope that someone looking online might find this helpful, I wish I had bout 4 years ago.   It's called D-MER. It's about nursing. I'll explain....

I'm nearly 6 months into this thing we call life with Cecilia! It's been so fun, every child truly is different! She's actually in her crib As. We. Speak. That never happened this early with G. Not complaining, I'm already missing my mandatory down-time for naps and cuddles but it's nice to get stuff done...we'll see how long this lasts.

But 6 months in and still nursing strong so let's talk about that...and how it's an issue. (those that know me may not think I have one since it seems so easy for me... but I do) here's my secret: It's NOT easy.
           I went just about 2 years with G, we had a few reasons beyond just wanting the best we could
give for her brain and body for going that long...Gluten issues made her stop growing as a baby so breastmilk was very important nutritionally, kidney surgery at 16 months meant weaning then would be too much stress at once and aslo during follow up procedures at 17 months, she was still very tiny and we were working through all the gluten and dairy issues getting her to grow and eventually started weaning naturally from there...basically she just got too busy to nurse all the time and we were done, easy peasy.

Easy peasy...Not at all! What about how I got sick to my stomach every single time she nursed? Isn't morning sickness supposed to stop when you aren't pregnant anymore??    I thought I was crazy! Or I had deep-seeded issues or was mental (I'm not debating my mental capabilities leave jokes  I never found anything online about it because who would even think to look up "getting sick while nursing"? Is that even a thing? It was for me, and it sucked. And I think around a year maybe it went away...I don't remember. I can't believe I made it that long with the feelings I got, add that to PPD and no wonder I felt all out of sorts and a mess. With a baby eating every 45 mins and that sick feeling all the time? yuck.

This time, it's even worse. I get ANGRY and sick all at once every single time. I realized about a week in that I actually got mad and yelled at G when I was trying to nurse C, and there was no reason for me to be mad. It just swept over me and I yelled that "I needed some space". Another time, my very first outing with C, I got sick standing at a soccer game and I had no idea why, I thought it was a blood sugar drop...but then I let down my milk (thank goodness for 'boob pads')...and the sickness went away...."OH YEAH, that's right, it was letdown, I'm not hungry" (a saying that I say probably once a day because at 6 months I still forget!)  I did finally realize it was linked with my letdown of milk. Which for some would be not bad, but I letdown All. The. Time. (yay for oversupply AND overactive letdown...choking newborn anyone?)

I'd had enough, multiple times a day and now out in public I got sick and foggy headed. I had to look it up. I finally found something called D-MER, Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, and I felt so relieved. I was NORMAL...kind of, if you count 2-4% of breastfeeding moms normal.

It's a Dopamine issue. What? another hormone issue? no way, Nicci with yet another hormone issue.... *read sarcastically*.   So I had an answer, I wasn't the only person who got mysteriously sick and evil while letting down. There really is no cure except for weaning. Which I'm not going to do just for 30 seconds to minute of sickness. But it's good to know what it is, that alone made it all that much more manageable. So if I get suddenly green in the face, or simply zone out for a minute, I'm trying to decide if I'm having a hypoglycemic bout and need food or if I'm about to letdown...either way, I'll be back in about 60 seconds bright and shiny as I was 60 seconds before.

I just hope that by sharing this personal bit into my life someone will feel better. Many of the articles came out AFTER I had Gia, this is not a new thing but there is new research going on about it. I found that Rhodiola was tried in 1 person, yep, "1" person...not a very big sample size, and it helped. But basically it wont go away until you're done. They can supplement with dopanine meds but it's not proven.

So no science from me, you can read about that in any of these links that I used:

Where's my body after baby?

It's been 4 months since I had my 2nd baby, Yay!,  but I haven't lost anything after the initial 20lbs most moms tend to lose right out of the hospital. "What?!" you say.  A Personal Trainer who hasn't lost baby-weight and who doesn't look PERFECT and back to normal mere months after a baby? I'm so guilty of scrolling through newsfeeds and seeing these fitness people who've had babies around the time I did and they are SO lean, and skinny and bounced right back...or worked super hard to get there, buckling down right out of the hospital.  Well, I didn't....and it's for a few good reasons....  (besides the fact that I'm human!) ((My "before" is at the bottom,,,if you're wondering))  Here are my reasons:

1) Healthy adrenals/thyroid. I had adrenal fatigue just over year ago...right before I got pregnant, and that can come from stress on the body. Having a baby is stressful on the body enough, but pressure to lose weight is stressful emotionally, and eating in a caloric deficit (to lose weight) is a stressor on the body. I want to keep a healthy body, hormones and mind and not "dieting" is the best way to do that for me.

2) Milk supply. I had a great milk supply last time and I do this time too but I'd like to keep it that way. So eating in a healthy range, and in a surplus of calories can help that. It's usually established by 6 months, about the time I'll start "cutting" fat.

I'm using those last two as reasons for this one-

3) Building muscle. You cannot build a lot of muscle if you're trying to lose weight (and many will say you can't do it at all while losing body fat, but I'm not here to debate this). I am already a "hard gainer" when it comes to muscle, so that means I need to eat a lot to gain some muscle. I figured, why not use the excess energy I have stored from pregnancy in addition to the excess calories I want to eat, to stay happy and healthy and to build some great muscle going into my next works out perfectly!
Top is 1 month PP, bottom is 4 months PP
 NOT trying to lose weight after having a baby is such a weird thing... it's always in our heads, in our faces and in our fat cells  that we need to lose it fast and bounce back and get our pre-baby body back.   What about this; how many moms do you know that have thyroid problems? or adrenal fatigue (linked to thyroid or eventual thyroid issues)?..... What if it's not only the stress of a pregnancy, labor and delivery, recovery, a baby, work, life, husband and on top of that we have to look PERFECT in 3 -6 months ...that is leading to the thyroid issues many moms have?  But this is a whole 'nother blog post, I'll get to sometime.

I am at my heaviest I've ever been...I'm lucky and I'm a genetically naturally thin person, but I also can gain weight...just ask my pics from the days I lived in Europe! (over-indulgence anyone?).
         I did lose weight initially, like most do, but then when I began on my goal of building muscle I gained some happens sometimes because you increase your calories to build muscle.
Mine also went up because I'm nursing and that's what my body does (it did it last time too...6 months later I was way bigger than 6 weeks postpartum :( ). I gain weight when breastfeeding and, guess what, so do many others! They just don't tell you's a might gain weight when breastfeeding...I did, Google it, you'll find you are in the company of many here.   That, too, is a whole 'nother blog post.

       Anyways, I'm here to say that it is frustrating to have not gotten back to my normal walking around weight by 4 months simply because I know people are watching for it. When I'm getting dressed and I have zero pants that fit it's maddening. When I have no underwear that's comfortable it's sad (tmi??.. sorry.) But then my loving husband says "You know why it's like that, you have'll be back to YOU in just a few months." And I love that he understands. And that he takes me shopping while on vacation at the beach to get all new summer clothes :) (now that's love! Or that's him trying to get me to stop whining about my jeans...)
This is where I started, my "walking around"
             And he also is a realist, he reminds me that I made this choice to do it this way and I can't complain...he's so right... and really, I'm not that much far off from where I began, I'm in a place many would love to be. But I'm gaining muscle (love those GIANZ coach!) and I'm eating, not dieting, not stressing and having fun postpartum rather than restricting and I'm enjoying my baby and family. I still eat on "plan" according to what's healthy and what my macros are for my current goals and body but they are HAPPY macros (thanks to my coach from All or Nothing Fitness!)...because I get to eat and fit in all that I want to. So here's to being postpartum...and being happy with whatever place in life you're in.

In the end, don't compare yourself to me, or any other pregnant or postpartum woman out there. You are you, you have your own genetics and your own life to live.

*cheers* to all us moms out there.

Be happy and healthy friends!

I Rock(Taped) it!

       This was done a while ago but I thought I'd put it on the blog for easier reference for those of you that keep looking for it.
         I did not have a very large DR (diastasis Recti) after C was born, but I did have one, I had it fairly big after G was born also so I expected it. I wanted to correct it quickly because I already had residual back pain and I wanted to make sure that I did what I could to keep the DR from getting worse, because it very easily can...and it can take years to heal if you don't correct it right away.  

     So along with some non-crunching core exercises for strength and healing, I had a RockTape certified massage therapist do the taping technique on me as seen here in the first picture...(with the 4 year old rocking out like a rock-star)... This is roughly 7 weeks postpartum:  
During the week that I wore the tape I felt a lot more stable and really feel that it helped my core strength and my performance during lifting workouts.As I added in some core workouts I felt that I was more in tune with what I had to do to keep my core strong and activating the Transverse Abdominis (deep ab muscles). Through all 5 days of lifting and core workouts the tape stuck...very well! The only thing was that I had some itchiness under the tape and even got a tiny spec of a rash, but I think that was my sensitive skin. 
This picture is from 5 days later, the tape is still sticking and my posture was much better. 

I do think it really helped, my back pain was not as bad during this time because I was reminded to keep my abs tight and sit up straight. Because of the itchiness I only reapplied the tape one more time for 4 days and I really liked the results and feeling of strength.  But, I did not put it on again because I then began to tape my lower back (for some continuing pain/inflammation) and didn't want to be a tape-monster.

Conclusion: Do it! Because no matter what, you don't want DR to stick around, you want better posture and you want to regain core strength as soon as you can. Your body will thank you! (if you're looking for ab workouts keep an eye on my Facebook page, I will post what I do randomly there)

**Update: Still have DR but it had gotten better and my core was SO MUCH stronger over the last month....Here's the thing, my back is still out of whack and in a lot of pain....because my back had many more problems than just the DR so now I know that the reason I still had pain was a disc issue...but with all that going on I still felt better, my core as tighter and I felt more "solid" through my core.

Are you Vibe'n'?

Are you a Color Viber? Did you run the color vibe last year? It's coming up again! I know a 4 year old who has been talking about it all year, she's even saved her sunglasses so she can wear them the next time...and the time has come!
Us prior...I'm the one with the kiddo
What is a Color Vibe? The color vibe run is a super fun race where people line up...or lay get blasted with different color powders all in the name of fun.  The powder was light and fluffy, and gets everywhere! But it washes out and is fun to wear as a badge of honor after the race is done.        There is a DJ to pump you up while they blast color at you. And added this year is an AFTER PARTY that will keep you going even though you're doused in color. It's just a great day to get out, ring in the Spring season and get your body moving. 
 Do I have to be a runner? Not at all. Many people walk...I had a 3 year old in tow and we all took turns carrying her after the first mile....and it was more fun than if I tried to run the whole thing. Some people even laid down to get splattered with color! The going was kind of slow but it was very very fun.  It's only a few miles so you can certainly walk it in plenty of time.

April 11th 2014 is the day so get your white clothes ready! 

After the baby plan

The baby is here! She turned out to be a girl :) She went exactly 1 week past her due date, that was one of the longest weeks of my life! But Cecilia Crimm Howard is here and Gianna, Steve and I are excited to have her here. It's still a learning process for me, learning to have two kiddos around, but it is a fun one. In the words of Gia "having a newborn around is hard..." and yes, it is. But we know that time will fly by and I'll soon be able to put her down and we can be more free.

This is from 38 weeks, I went to 41!

Now it's time for me to get this healthy body back. It's important to be healthy as a mom. You have to play with your kids, keep the baby happy, bouncing and clean and you have to make milk to feed your's very taxing on the body and if you aren't full of energy you won't make it! It's also important to be healthy and fit for YOU. I dealt with postpartum depression last time and I know it had to do with my first snowy winter ever, being a new mom, moving to a new state, not having local support in the beginning and all of the other changes.  I had an active pregnancy last time, so that helped but with the winter I wasn't able to get right out and walk or be as active as I was a very emotional and interesting time.  Then what did we do? Had another winter baby!

This goal is to avoid the depression... I had an equally fit pregnancy (I chronicled it on Facebook and Instagram).  You'd think that would make for an easy delivery...nope. I did it natural again (I'm NO hero... I did it this way both times because i'm terrified of long needles in the back and pain meds make me out of sorts!) Last time it was 17 hours and this time...19 all ACTIVE labor hours...hard work!  So here is the 1 week postpartum pics. NO body/belly binding/wrapping and no exercise. Just GENETICS at work here:
1 week postpartum

Now it's time to work... What's my fit plan???    I'm back to the studio and training clients both online and in person so I'm jumping in 6 weeks postpartum. I also got an awesome sponsorship for my next bikini competition...yep it's happening at the end of the year! I'm part of Team All or Nothing Fit!! My coach waited for my go-ahead and now we've begun the off-season fitness plan that will help me build back any muscle I lost, and hopefully put on even more... then we'll begin a competition prep towards mid summer.  The one thing that is most important to me is my milk supply. I will not do anything to compromise my baby's health during this process. I will drink tons of water and eat oatmeal (though my supply is good for now, I will keep an eye on it) I'm not cutting calories since I'm not trying to cut fat, I'm building muscle. Once milk supply is established it will be  cutting time. I will also be doing protein powder, fish oil and vitamins (and a cup of joe for preworkout) no other supps at this time.....

I'm stoked to focus on building muscle! I may not lean out and thin down like many want to do right after having a baby, and that is going to be a tough pill to swallow, but I may do just that when lifting heavy. This is why I love fitness and lifting, it's like a science experiment, trial and error every time. You get to see how your body responds to your hard work and dedication and change it up as needed. Here's some pics from home, just a few days past 1 month postpatum:

I'm pretty sure it's a slimming mirror since it's at an angle in my room and I am a bit more flabby than the pics show but this is my "progress mirror" for now. I don't have stretchmarks (thanks mom!) but I've heard they can come later so we'll keep fingers crossed. I have been on my macros (protein, fat and carbs) for a good few days now and I worked out a couple of days but beginning Monday I'm all in, on plan, ready to see how to change my body. I expect to see the scale go up...with we'll see. I will post daily pics on Instagram and I'll update the blog as best as I can so stay tuned.

Physique bikini competition November 7th, 2015...there. It's in writing. Join me on the journey to change.