by Bret Contreras October 22, 2013
I’m very excited to post this guest blog from Kellie Davis where she interviews her client Meg about her recent success. You’re gonna love this. Congratulations Meg, you rock!
When you initially contacted me, what were your goals and how quickly did you feel you could reach them?
Initially, I contacted you for the sole reason of competing in a figure competition. I had put it in my mind at my last birthday (December) that I wanted to accomplish this before my next birthday. I had given contest prep a stab before on my own and knew I needed some help. Foolishly, I figured I could get a coach, do a 12-week prep, and be on my merry way with a competition 3 months later. Ha! (Looking back on that now as I write this I’m laughing at my initial timeline) My only exposure to contest prep was the oh so notorious plan of eating at a calorie deficit for 12 weeks, doing an hour of cardio at the crack of dawn everyday followed by intense weight training sessions 5 days a week. I just assumed this was the norm so that is why I initially thought I could get lean and mean and build beautiful muscle with the snap of a finger.
Kellie’s insight: Whenever a client comes to me wanting to compete for the first time, I am prepared to do a total body and mind makeover. I often tell her to get the competition date out of her head because I don’t want that to be the focus. I don’t want to set a goal of getting stage ready in 12 weeks, 18 weeks, or even a year from now. There are so many psychological factors involved with competing and I never want my clients to think that it’s all about getting on stage. So much more goes into fitness and nutrition. I want to teach them to create healthy lifestyle habits that carry over into whatever it is they decide to do. You are given one body and it has to take you through so many years. The end goal isn’t three months from now. You are setting yourself up for a life of healthy habits. That is the end goal.
I know when we initially met I told you that I like to take the contest out of the equation, get you in top shape, then think about that contest date. You seemed on board with it, but do you think that impaired your ability to stay focused, or did this help you feel at ease about the process?
I think it definitely impaired my ability to stay focused. Instead of having a very hard deadline I was instead working towards a point in the future (to be determined) and didn’t really have that motivation to get to that point. When it finally clicked was when I knew I had 12 weeks to get it done or else it wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t holding myself accountable because I didn’t really see the finish line to where I was trying to get. Now, I have a whole different mindset to my nutrition and while I don’t have a hard deadline I’m trying to get to, I can hold myself accountable because I want to keep this shape that I am in.
Kellie’s insight: So often we have this ideal of ourselves and we forget we are inherently comfort creatures. The idea of doing this one thing—having this short-term overarching goal—is so much easier to adhere to in our minds than doing something until we get it right. For Meg, I believe the struggle was that she didn’t have an end in sight. Competitive people need that finish line. When I took the finish line away, she lost sight of why she was doing this. Looking back, though it made her journey a little rougher and it took her a little longer to get here, she is in a much better place moving forward. If I would have said let’s do this in three months and given her a date for stepping on stage, she could have easily rebounded, ended up worse off, and not learned a damn thing about self-discipline and positive choices.
What were some of the positive changes you notice right away? What were some changes you didn’t see happening, but wanted to?
Right away I noticed strength gains. Every week I was topping the previous week’s max. I felt strong and was becoming more confident in my body and what it was capable of. While strength was nice, I wasn’t seeing the lean aspect that I was hoping for. I can be an extremely impatient person, so when I set a goal I want it to happen immediately. Of course I also wasn’t adhering to my nutrition plan so it was in no way logical to expect a greater rate of fat loss than I was seeing.
Did you find it hard to adhere to either the fitness or nutrition plan? If so, why?
I am an extremely competitive individual, especially when it comes to athletics. Adhering to a fitness plan is easy for me. Nutrition is a whole different story. I love food and always have. I am also very much a social butterfly. When you gave me my first nutrition plan, at first glance it seemed easy. I quickly learned that I have no problem sticking to a nutrition plan Monday – Friday afternoon.
The weekend hits and I am presented with the balance of still having fun with all my friends while not overindulging on the drinks out at the bar, the late night pizza, the weekend brunches and dinners out. It was a vicious cycle. I didn’t want to totally alienate myself but couldn’t just say “NO THANKS”.
Another problem I had was continuously rewarding myself after a successful week of exercise and eating. I tricked myself into thinking that I “deserved” a little treat. The problem was my treats came in the size numerous glasses of IPAs and California wines.
Kellie’s insight: At this point, I had no idea about Meg’s weekend habits or how bad they were. She was killing it in the gym and getting insanely strong week after week. I knew she was athletic and had a good foundation for figure. She was gaining noticeable muscle, but fat loss was hard to come by. Little did I know she was sabotaging herself week in and week out. The number one lesson here is communication with your coach is key to your success. Even if it seems trivial, you need to share everything with your coach. Little things like stress, job changes, lack of sleep, weekend outings—these all directly affect your results and give your coach important clues to your success or lack there of.
We both know this was a vicious cycle for months. 5 months of this. Finally, I was fed up. I knew I wanted to complete this goal of competing in a figure competition and if I wanted it to happen I needed a serious change. The light bulb finally went on. This was about me and it was time to get selfish. If that meant becoming a hermit for 3 months, so be it. I started turning down invites out to dinners, started bringing my healthy snacks with me to parties at friends’ apartments and opted for sparkling water over alcohol if I went out to bars. I quickly learned that this actually wasn’t all that hard to do and the more I did it, the easier it became to turn down temptations and adhere to my nutrition plan. Once I fully committed to the goal I made for myself I was finally able to stick to the plan and see the results I wanted from the start.
Yes, this is something I wanted to dive into. I think around 3 months of working together you felt really frustrated. Your strength was through your roof and you were building some nice muscle, but the scale wasn’t budging. I asked you track your cals that weekend, and you were shocked to learn that you’d consumed an excess of 2,600 cals in beer alone. This was hugely eye-opening, but it didn’t stick for long.
Do you feel this was a mental block for you because you thought you had to give up everything you enjoyed and weren’t quite ready? Or did you just not pay close attention to your weekend indulgences?
In my mind it was all or nothing. I wasn’t ready to give up my nights out at the bars because I wasn’t fully committed to my goal yet. I always knew when I was overindulging and sometimes I would experience guilt after the fact, but for some reason I just couldn’t shake the cycle.
At one point we took a short hiatus, and you came back to me (I think it was 2-3 weeks) ready to rock and roll. I’d never seen you so determined and fired up. What changed?
I can pin point this moment exactly. I went to Vegas for Memorial Day weekend and to say I indulged is an understatement. I came back and I just didn’t feel comfortable with myself and I was really unhappy with my job at the time. I knew I had so much more potential. I took a short break (maybe 2 weeks?) and reevaluated what I wanted in life and what would make ME happy. I came out of this with 2 things: a new job that I loved and felt challenged and to get into the best damn shape of my life and finally conquer this goal.
I know when this happened that we discussed your weekend’s out. I told you that you really need to hold onto what you love about this, and I felt it was more the companionship and conversations than it was the food and alcohol. Did this resonate with you? If so, how?
Yes, totally. It wasn’t at all about the food it was about the company. That is when I realized I could still stick to my plan and have my friends AND (added bonus) they completely surprised me with how much support they gave me.
This 5th month was a huge turning point for you. Within a week, the pounds started dropping and I KNEW for the first time that you were finally adhering to the plan 100%. How did that feel?
AWESOME. Absolutely amazing. I was so much happier and this was also coupled with the fact that I had gotten a new job. I was finding what made me happy. Sticking to the plan 100% and seeing the results only fueled me more.
Kellie’s insight: As I coach, this was the best feeling in the world as well. I could see Meg was in such a good place with both her healthy mindset and new career. Sometimes when other aspects in our lives aren’t ideal (for Meg it was her job) it throws everything else off balance.
How did you friends react to these new lifestyle changes? Were they supportive or did they taunt you?
My friends were amazing. They all were so supportive and so interested in what I was doing. They even went as far as to make sure I could still come to dinner parties and ask me what they could cook for me to make sure I could eat what they were preparing. They of course still heckled me some and were bummed when I turned down going to BeerFest and nights out at the bar, but they always told me how proud they were of me for sticking to my goal. Once I realized this I was able to incorporate some of those activities I initially turned away from (like going out to bars on the weekends) without the temptations. I would still go out to bars for friends’ birthday celebrations and they would offer to get me sparkling water from the bar.
Kellie’s insight: Sometimes when we are trying to reach these big fitness goals we set ourselves up for failure simply because we think we will let other people down. It’s okay to get a little selfish. This is not only your journey toward that big goal, but also toward a better you. For Meg, she was afraid she would lose the life that she loved: her friends, her nights out, her special events in life. She didn’t lose any of that, and I think in the process she gained a deeper understanding of why these relationships are important to her. It’s not just about the fun times (she still had those moments) but the support and understanding that your friends and family have to offer.
Did you ever experience big moments of clarity that really helped you push through (ie. times when you felt amazing, saw big physique changes, or made big strength gains)? Did you ever have moments of doubt? If so, how did you push through?
Oh, yes. Some of my big moments of clarity came when I started seeing physique changes. I remember the first moment I saw my stomach slim down I was SO motivated and realized “Hey, I really CAN do this!” Waking up on the weekends at 8am (which is sleeping in for me) and being so full of energy and having the entire day to be productive and do what I love instead of being hung over and wasting the day away. When I hit my 1RM in deadlifts during the time I was actually dieting down, THAT motivated me. Doing multiple unassisted pull ups — HUGE victory! Oh, and when people started noticing my changes and complimenting me — best motivation! As silly as this is, posting pictures on Instagram/Facebook really motivated me because I realized all my friends could be so nice and supportive.
Of course, with as many moments of clarity I had SO many doubts. I don’t know how many freak out emails I sent you “WHAT IF I’M NOT READY IN TIME?!”. Laura (Kellie’s client who referred me) was seriously like a rock for me during my prep. I talked to her daily and she knew everything that was going on in my head. That was such a big part of my prep — having a close friend who could go through the journey with me. She kept me level headed. Whenever I had moments of doubt I would look at my progress photos and measurements. Thank goodness for those! Visual reminders of where you’ve come from are the absolute best. One thing that Laura always had me remember was to look what I was able to accomplish in X amount of time…and think of what I was capable of doing in that same amount of time. I could only keep improving.
I’m my own hardest critic. During the last 3 weeks or so I’d say I finally had my biggest moment of clarity. I realized I needed to give myself WAY more credit than I was allowing myself. I was totally rocking it and adhering to my plan perfectly and nothing was going to stop me. It was smooth sailing from there on out.
Kellie’s insight: I think Meg did the perfect thing here by finding that one friend who completely understood what she was going through. We may not all be so lucky to have a Laura in our life—someone who is also deeply passionate about fitness—but all you need is that one person who can stand by your side and be your biggest cheerleader, talk some sense into you, and let you vent. Sometimes people can get a little discouraged when they don’t find the support they need, but it’s important to realize that not everyone will understand or even care about what you are doing. You don’t have to shout from the rooftops or give updates to everyone at every given moment. It takes just that single important relationship, whether it’s a friend, a family member, or an online community, to give you that boost and help you see more clearly the path you are heading down.
What was the most surprising part of this journey?
My level of dedication. I really surprised myself with this. For someone who has a bachelors degree with honors and a masters degree, both from a top engineering schools, I can honestly say I put in more effort and dedication during my fitness journey than I did in school. This was the hardest I’ve ever worked for something in my entire life and everything about it was about me. I was in charge of how things would turn out.
Looking back, would you change anything about it (either on your end or the coaching end)?
Well, I wish I had my “ah-ha” moment a heck of a lot sooner! But honestly, no. Sure I slipped up here and there (the infamous ice cream sandwich breakdown around week 4) but I think during my “prep” period I couldn’t have done it any better.
Kellie’s insight: All the ups and downs and struggles Meg went through were the most influential and important part of her transformation. I think if things clicked or came easy to her, she would not have valued what she did for herself as much as she does now. She’s created a new lifestyle and I think it changes her habits and mindset for the long haul. It wasn’t just ‘something to do for fun’ or a challenge, it was a process that taught her so much about herself. She discovered things about herself that she never knew, which I think is so valuable.
How did you feel the morning you woke up for your contest?
Amazing. The best ever. There wasn’t a thing I would change about how I felt. I felt like I was 6 yrs old waking up on Christmas morning.
Kellie’s insight: Seeing Meg at the show was awe-inspiring. When I met up with her that morning she was so radiant and just gorgeous. She had this glow about her that you don’t usually see with competitors the morning of their show. The other ladies looked tired, drained, and stressed out. Meg looked like a kid at Disney World. She was full of energy and light, her skin and hair were luminous and her body was out of this world.
How did it feel to step on stage?
Phenomenal. That was the easiest part of all. Even better was hearing my friends in the crowd! It didn’t matter whom I was competing against on stage, in my mind I had accomplished all my goals and I’d already won.
Kellie’s insight: Meg was cool as a cucumber. I couldn’t believe how calm she was during the entire show. Her posing was on par, and she had such a presence about her that was unmatched. By far, she was the most comfortable woman on stage. I could really see that she knew in her heart the hard work was done and this was her reward. She lit up the stage and I was beyond proud.
Did you place in any of your categories?
I place 3rd in Novice and 4th in Open — not last!
Kellie’s insight: I cheered so loudly when Meg placed. I also emailed her after the show to give her some insider thoughts on how the show was judged. I love that she didn’t even think about that. I wanted her to get a better understanding of figure judging, and I know it helped her. But she wasn’t at all concerned about how or where she placed. That is truly rewarding as a coach, to know that she made this journey all about her. It’s a wonderful feeling.
What did you do after your show?
I went out to eat with all of my friends and my sister! I ate a huge Mexican meal (my favorite type of food). Lobster tacos…YUM. I attempted to go out to bars to celebrate after with drinks but I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open… hahaha!
How was your recovery in the days and weeks after the show? Did you have any struggles or did you feel pretty good?
The morning after the show was great. I still felt amazing. However, I allowed myself the weekend to indulge and celebrate my accomplishments and I definitely paid for it some. My body wasn’t used to eating what I ate so I definitely felt some struggles. I also went from measuring out every single ounce of food for 12 weeks to now having some wiggle room. I kind of freaked out with this initially because I found it hard to balance. I also started feeling uncomfortable in my own skin because my lovely 6 pack, which I had grown to love and cherish, was slipping away. Now it is almost 4 weeks post show and I feel great. No more water retention and I’m feeling full of energy at this “new normal”. Sure I don’t have my ripped 6 pack but I can lift a heck of a lot more weight in the gym, which in my mind is a great trade off!
Kellie’s insight: Meg handled this beautifully. One of the hardest things about competing is the ‘now what’. This is something that so many competitors struggle with, and we also see this with big weight loss contests like the Biggest Loser. Once that goal is reached, so many have a hard time returning to normal life. The contest ends, and they feel a bit lost and depressed. Meg set boundaries for herself and she made it a point to not breech them. I love this about her.
I think how we structured her prep also helped her deal with this. She never ate ultra low cals or had serious food restrictions. She ate normally up until she stepped on stage– didn’t cut water, carbs, or anything else. I know it was a bit tough pulling the reigns back for a few days after, but she coped really well with it. We slowly ramped back up her cals and eased her back into training. Until you hit the stage, you never realize that posing is the hardest workout of the entire process. You’re body is pretty beat up the next day. We did a deload and then the following week she returned to heavy lifting– which she was pumped about.
What is the next big thing for you?
I love lifting big and heavy so I am going to spend the next few months doing that. I can’t wait to compete again and so I’ve decided to give a different category a try: Women’s Physique. I am naturally able to carry a lot of muscle so this could be a really good fit for me as this category allows you to carry more muscle than Figure. I can’t wait for this new challenge!
Kellie’s insight: Meg was made for the stage and after seeing her perform in figure I thought she would thrive in women’s physique. She naturally carries beautiful muscle and I don’t want to see her sacrifice it to compete figure.
Any final thoughts for our readers who may be standing in the same position you were at month 1 or even month 3?
Patience. This is the biggest piece of advice I can give. Be patient with the process, things don’t happen over night. Be patient with yourself, you need to still enjoy life and accept that you will slip up once or twice. My biggest motivator was recording my progress. Day to day it may not seem like you are making big changes but when you step back and look at your progress you would be amazed at what you are able to accomplish! Set your goal and stick to it. Remember why you made this goal in the first place.
Kellie’s insight: Meg’s journey is the epitome of a coach’s dream client. I don’t believe dream clients are necessarily the ones who fall in line and everything comes with ease. I learned as much about coaching from Meg as she learned about physique transformations from me. This experience has taught me so much about patience, perseverance, and communication. I wouldn’t change a thing about this experience with her and I am beyond happy to have her in my life. It was a rewarding process for me as well because she made me a better coach.
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