My Fitness Transformation Story

How have my views on being healthy changed over the past couple of years?

The above picture shows me three years ago in 2014, and me now, in the body I woke up in today. It has been a very slow progress of learning to love my body, learning how to not fear food, and learning to love working out rather than dreading it. If your interested to learn how I have completely changed my mindset and have now reached a place where I have accepted myself how I am, keep on reading!

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Me in 2014 (I was skinny, but had no muscle definition)

My Struggle with Disordered Eating

During sophomore year of high school (I’ve also talked about this in my story, which you can read here) I struggled with disordered eating. I would meticulously count my calories and make sure I never went over 1,200. At this time I was doing many sports (volleyball, crew, swimming) so I was very active, but I always felt exhausted and never was able to reach my full potential athletically because I was so tired all the time. All of this stemmed when a boy in my grade called me fat. After I heard that, I made a vow to myself that I would start to lose lots of weight. I went from being a healthy 130 pounds (totally normal for 5’7 healthy teenager) to 112. I lost nearly 20 pounds in the span of 3 months (in an unhealthy way) all because of some ignorant comment from an irrelevant person in my life. I know it’s easier said than done, but not letting stupid comments get to you is so important. If someone says something mean about you, it actually means they are unhappy with themselves and so they feel the need to bring other people down. I know this now, but back then I didn’t. So I only ate the bare minimum of 1,200 calories and burned about 500 or more everyday, meaning I was only taking in about 700-800. The weight came off really quickly, but I started to get that really skinny look because I lost muscle too, not just fat. My nails became very weak, my skin looked pale, and my hair began to break off. These are all signs that your body is not receiving the nutrients it needs to perform basic functions. I also became sick way more often. My immune system was crap since I didn’t have enough vitamins, minerals, protein etc to help it. I survived off processed foods like 100 calorie yogurts, snack packs and sugary granola bars. I ate these foods because I could count the calories easier and enter them in the app knowing exactly how much was in it. I also chewed tons of gum and drank 0 calorie Lifewater drinks so I didn’t go insane. This continued for several months until it got to the point where my mom became really worried about me. She sat me down and told me I needed to start eating or I would have to see someone.

 

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Me in 2012

Me in 2013

How I got my Nutrition in Check

The switch for me came when I quit swimming and started track. I actually really enjoyed track and the endorphins it gave me. The “running high” made me feel so good. I looked forward to running and being able to go for a long time. I realized though that I would get tired very quickly. I was browsing on the Internet and I came across a Youtuber who was showing how to make a green smoothie. She was glowing vibrant, beautiful and seemed so happy. I wanted to embody her. So, that day, I made myself a green smoothie exactly how she made it and drank it all up. I’m not gonna lie and say I loved the smoothie at first because I wasn’t used to drinking anything so healthy. But I drank one everyday, and I would always get an instant burst of energy after to go on my long run. Slowly but surely, my skin started to get a glow, and it no longer looked sallow. My mom and friends began complimenting me, telling me how I looked so much healthier. And something inside me just clicked. I was tired of obsessing over how my body looked and how much I weighed. I just wanted to be healthy. So, my diet completely changed. I cut out all the crap with long ingredient labels, and focused on real, whole foods from their most natural state. I simplified my meals and cooked from home. Every time I made a healthy meal, I felt like I was showing my body respect.

How my Fitness Changed

I will always be grateful for track and running because it gave me the exercise high that I love and crave today. However, I no longer go on long runs because I have found that shorter, more intense workouts have been more beneficial in changing my body and giving me more confidence. It started when I began incorporating weights into my routine. I would do a quick round of weights after my runs, and would lift very very light. I would do basic moves such as squats, lunges, overhead presses etc. I didn’t get really into weightlifting until college. Weightlifting was a way for me to relieve all my stress at the end of the day. I started to get really serious about lifting heavy. As time went on, I made sure to always increase my weight in small amounts, and soon I was able to squat 100 pounds. My muscle definition became more visible and I received compliments on the progress I was making. As I saw the change in my body, I began to realize that I wanted to look strong, not skinny. I no longer desired small arms, and skinny chicken legs. I wanted a bigger butt, defined back muscles, and muscular calves. These are all things I am still working towards, but have made significant progress, and that comes from not being scared to lift heavy and eating a lot more food.

Where I am Today

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Today, I am all about balance in all aspects of my life. That is why the title of this blog is “HolisticallyKatie”, and not “Katie’s Diet” or “Katie’s Fitness.” I believe there are many important aspects of being healthy, and it’s not only how we exercise, what we eat, but it is also how we feel internally and our mental state. Now, I eat intuitively which means I eat a healthy meal when I’m hungry, and stop eating when I’m full. I don’t stuff my self, but I always make sure to eat enough to feel satisfied. If I want to grab an ice cream with my friends or indulge in a steak, I will. I no longer feel deprived or like I have a craving for unhealthy food. When it comes to exercise, I actually love working out now. I look forward to exercise, instead of view it as a punishment. I love lifting heavy and challenging myself, but at the same time, I also love switching up my workouts by trying out HIIT routines, or sweaty hot yoga sessions. I’m not saying I am perfect now at all. It has been a really long journey for me with many ups and downs, but I am happy to say that now I feel so much more confident in myself and the person I have become. I still have so many goals set for my health and fitness in the future, but for now, I’m happy with myself and I practice self-care everyday, which I encourage all of you to incorporate into your lives in some ways.

 


Hot Yoga: Tips and Benefits

I don’t know what I would do without yoga.

Yoga has improved my life in so many ways. It has made me feel better about my self both physically and mentally. It has helped me remain calm in situations where I want to tear my hair out. It makes me feel grounded, and connected to the world around me. I’m not religious, but when I’m in a yoga class, I feel spiritual and connected to some kind of outer force. I’ve never really had much religion in my life growing up, so doing yoga is a way for me to connect to that superior being that many people refer to. It doesn’t matter what crappy things happened that day or what I’m worrying about for the next day; it all just goes away and the only thing I care about is going deeper in my Warrior 2. This is why I always tell people to try out yoga, even if they think they will hate it. It does take time to get used to, and a consistent practice is so important. Yoga is not a competition, and it’s not like other types of exercise. It takes true dedication and trusting that your body will improve over time. I’ve been doing yoga for about 4 years now, and I still struggle sometimes to get into a pigeon pose or maintain my balance in tree. Every day is different, and every day your body may feel different. I love yoga so much because there is no stress. It’s just about doing the best you can do and not even thinking about it.

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I enjoy hot yoga over other types because I like leaving feeling sweaty and accomplished. I feel rejuvenated and like a new person when I leave a hot yoga class because I have “detoxed” all the impurities and pent up stress/emotions from the day.

Benefits of heated yoga include:

  1. The heat allows for added flexibility
  2. The heat forces you to breathe constantly and take deep, long breaths (if you don’t breathe…you may pass out…not good)
  3. Sweating expels toxins, and improves blood circulation
  4. Sweating is amazing for your skin because it opens up the pores and allows bacteria to exit
  5. It burns a ton of calories

Tips I have found that may be helpful for those new to hot yoga:

  1. DRINK WATER BEFORE! You may think that you only need to drink water after a hot yoga session, but this mindset is false and can be dangerous. You should start drinking a lot of water before going to hot yoga because the body loses A LOT of water from the class, particularly if it is a 90 minute long class. Make sure to hydrate hours before class. Drinking coconut water before or after class is great as well.
  2. Invest in a YogiToe or bring some cash to rent one. YogiToes are non-slip towels, and hot yoga is much more difficult without them because your feet will be slipping all over the mat. YogiToes also come in a range of different colors and patterns, which make them super fun.
  3. Don’t get intimidated by the people around you. Try not to focus on what other people are doing, and instead, listen to the instructor and focus on your breathing. If you are watching other people the whole time and comparing yourself to them, the experience will likely not be very rewarding. Remember, it is not about what other people can do. It is about what you can do, and what you are capable of in the moment.
  4. Only do what feels comfortable and good. In general, doing yoga should feel good. It should not feel painful. There are always modifications available. For example, if you are struggling in Crescent Lunge, you can lower a knee to modify. Never try to do push your body past it’s limit. Forget your ego and ignore that inner voice that always tells you that you need to do more.
  5. Always stay for the Savasana. This is the part at the end of the class where you lay flat on your mat and do nothing. It sounds simple, but for many people, this is the most difficult part of the class. This part is so important because you have time to let all the heat and energy you just built up in your body settle, and you can just relax and even meditate.

Me after hot yoga class

Whether or not you do hot yoga, I think anyone can benefit from incorporating some yoga into their life. Not only are there countless physical benefits, but doing yoga can help with mental clarity and spiritual well-being. Namaste 🙂


Don’t Be Scared to Lift Heavy (+My Upper Body Strength Routine)

Many women still believe that lifting heavy weights will give them a bulky or “manly” look, but this could not be further from the truth.

Strength training has endless benefits, but some people are still scared of increasing their weight. Doing bodyweight strength exercises (squats, lunges, etc) are great, but I have found that by adding heavy weight to my strength training routine, my body composition has changed because I can burn fat more effectively, even when I’m not exercising. And I don’t mean holding two three pound dumbbells. I mean really trying to build up to a very challenging weight that makes the last repetition very difficult. This also means that you will be decreasing how many reps you do. Remember, this does not happen over night. If you suddenly try to lift way more weight than you are used to, it can result in injury. It can take weeks to build up your strength, so it is best to go little by little. Remember, there is no finish line to strength training. You can always get stronger, and there is always room for growth so keep working at it! I started doing squats with only ten pounds, and now I can lift one hundred. It takes time, consistency, and patience but there is nothing like seeing the progress you have made and how much you are capable of.

Here are some reasons why lifting heavy weights is a great idea, and you should start increasing the weight on your strength exercises.

  1. Muscles are a girl’s best friends: A study from Tufts University found that the more muscle you have, the better your chances are of living a longer life. Having more muscle can also improve your posture, and it gives you better stamina.
  2. Increases bone density: Having strong bones is so important because they protect your internal organs, which means you have a less chance of getting injured if you fall, and it decreases your chances of developing osteoporosis.
  3. Promotes fat loss: Lifting weights creates something called a post workout energy expenditure, which means you will still be burning calories even after you finish the workout. There have been studies showing that post-workout energy expenditure is higher after a strength session as compared to a steady state cardio session.
  4. Make you smarter: Lifting weights can actually enhance cognitive function. This is because it increases production of the hormone called IGF-1. This hormone is responsible for stimulating growth of new neural pathways in the brain.
  5. Improved patience: Increasing your weights can help you become more patient because you will realize that it takes time and hard work to build up strength. Lifting heavy gives you more confidence as well because as you become stronger, you will realize that your body is more capable than you ever thought before.

The clip below shows four exercises from my upper body strength training day (not all of them). For these four exercises, I lifted a weight that really challenged me and made the last repetition nearly impossible. And I am not scared of having bulky, or big arms, because lifting heavier gives the sculpted and defined look that I really like.

Full Workout Upper Body Strength Workout (targets the biceps, triceps, shoulders, back)

3 sets of 8 Repetitions

  • One arm rows (20 pounds each arm)
  • Pullovers (30 pounds)
  • Chest flies (40 pounds total)
  • Reverse grip rows (50 pounds)
  • Overhead Tricep Extension (20 pounds)
  • Chest Press (50 pounds total)
  • Tricep kickbacks (8 pounds each hand)
  • Hammer curl to overhead press (30 pounds)
  • Lateral to ventral raise (5 pounds each hand)

How to Get a Flatter Stomach without Crunches + Core Workout!

You don’t need to do a thousand crunches to get a flatter stomach.

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In fact, doing this is probably a waste of time and has no real benefit. There are a lot of misconceptions about having a flat stomach and getting abs. For some people, their abs show up very easily. For me personally, I store fat in my stomach and hips, so it is much harder for my abs to show. Everyone can introduce steps in their daily routine to reduce bloat and help flatten the stomach. I have stopped caring so much about whether or not my stomach looks perfect, and instead I focus more on feeling good and proper nutrition. By doing this, my stomach has become more flat naturally, without doing a million crunches or long cardio sessions. Here are some of the best tips that have worked for me when trying to get a flatter stomach:

1. Drink a TON of water.

You probably hear this all the time, but that is because it is one of the best things you can do for your body. Drinking lots of water will help flatten the stomach because the body can flush out everything much faster, and it also helps the body perform all the everyday functions more efficiently. If you are dehydrated, your stomach will look bloated and not flat because it is retaining salt. This is why after a hot yoga session, your abs are more likely to show because you just flushed out lots of salt and retention from your body. If drinking water is boring to you, I recommend adding some lemon slices, orange slices, or lime slices.

2. Focus on full body compound exercises.

A lot of people think that doing thousands of crunches will give them abs, but this is so far from the truth. Do more full body movements that engage all your muscle groups, because these also engage the core as well. You will be burning more calories, even after you finish doing them because these exercises require full body engagement. Examples of full body compound movements include deadlifts, squats, chest presses, and lunges. Lifting heavy does NOT make you bulky, instead it will make you leaner and more defined.

3. Nutrition is key.

You cannot expect to have a flatter stomach if you are eating like crap. Tons of salt, processed food, and sugary junk all lead to bloat, water retention, and fat accumulation. We want to do the opposite when trying to get a flatter stomach. Focus on eating tons of fruits and vegetables. These are detoxifying to the body and all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber will help flush everything out and lean out the stomach. Healthy fats, such as coconut oil, almond butter and avocado are also excellent to include in a balanced diet. Fat does not make you fat. Processed junk does.

4. Avoid alcohol.

Alcohol leads to dehydration, and dehydration leads to bloating, which is the opposite of having a flat stomach. If you drink, try to moderate your alcohol consumption. Having a glass of wine or two is fine with dinner, but binge-drinking wrecks havoc on the body. Try substituting things such as kombucha for alcohol, which is a probiotic. This leads perfectly to the next point…

5. Focus on probiotics and prebiotics.

Take a probiotic supplement everyday. Try to get a high quality probiotic, meaning it must be refrigerated and contains a diverse range of strains. If you do not want to take a pill, probiotics can also be found in kombucha, cultured yogurt, sauerkraut, and apple cider vinegar. Prebiotics are food for the probiotics, and are equally important to include. Prebiotics are found in raw garlic, raw onion, banana, apples, leeks and flaxseed. Having a healthy gut is critical for having good digestion. When the digestive system is working properly, the body can eliminate toxins efficiently, and therefore the stomach will appear flatter.

I am not trying to say that you need to have a flat stomach to be attractive. I personally feel my best when my stomach looks tighter and more defined. These are tips that anyone can apply that do not require doing a thousand sit-ups or starving yourself. When you start to incorporate daily lifestyle changes and make it a habit to eat well everyday, then you will naturally start to notice your stomach getting flatter along the way. It’s not a race or a competition. When you treat the body holistically, everything else falls into place. Remember you cannot spot-reduce a specific area. When you begin training smart and doing exercise you love, then your body will start to become more shapely and defined overall, not just in one specific area.

Here is a quick ab circuit. I am doing side planks, bird dog crunches, and hanging leg raises. Do 3 sets of 20 reps to feel a good burn in your core. These movements engage all of the core, not just one section, which is why I really love adding them into my routine.


Glute Burnout with Ankle Weights

I’m going to be sharing my low impact butt workout that you can do right from home. This is a great workout to try if you’re not feeling up for a full lower body workout, but still want to engage and work the glutes. This is also a great burnout routine to add at the end of a traditional strength workout. I recommend incorporating this routine twice a week, spaced apart, to see results. I am using both ankle weights and a resistance band  which are optional for this routine, but I highly recommend getting them because they really help challenge the glutes. They are both pretty cheap and easy to get from Amazon. Since lifting heavy weights and incorporating this routine into my leg workouts, I have been able to build my glutes, which is really exciting for me. Remember, you can start from anywhere and with enough dedication, it’s possible to achieve your goals.

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Workout:

  • 15 Straight leg lifts +pulses
  • 15 Donkey kicks +pulses
  • 15 Side leg lifts (or Fire hydrants)
  • 15 Bridges with resistance band +pulses
  • 15 One leg bridges with resistance band
  • 15 Standing kick backs +pulses

*Repeat that three times!

The key to burn out your glutes is to pulse at the end of the repetitions. So after you complete the fifteen leg lifts, do twenty pulses (or as many as you can until fatigue) at the top of the range of motion. Keep your muscle contracted, and you should really feel this in your butt.

I posted these moves on my Instagram, if you want to see them in action!


Lose Fat Quickly by Training Like This

Are you going on the elliptical/treadmill for an hour at the gym? Do you find yourself getting bored from your workouts? Has your body shape remained the same the past couple months even though you’ve been working out? Are you losing motivation?

The best way of training I’ve found personally for fixing these problems is called: Functional HIIT Workouts.

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HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. Basically, you push your body as hard as you can for a quick interval, then rest, then you repeat it. The reason why this training is the best for burning fat and changing your body is:

1) It engages all main muscle groups at the same time (legs, abs, core, arms, back)
2) You sweat and burn lots of calories in a short period of time
3) Mind Muscle Connection; it’s functional training. You have to focus on each muscle as you work it, which then helps you work harder and more effectively through each move. You’re not just mindlessly on a machine thinking about what you’ll eat for dinner that night. You must focus to get results.
4) You won’t just lose weight, but you will look more toned. Your body shape will begin to change. You will avoid looking “skinny fat”

Functional HIIT training is the best way to train is because it is way more effective at burning fat while not taking up lots of time. Most effective HIIT workouts can be done in twenty minutes, or less. You could be on the ellitpical going at a steady pace for an hour and burn less calories than you would doing twenty minutes of HIIT. You also are barely engaging your muscles on an elliptical, but doing HIIT, you engage all your main muscle groups. You will still be burning calories after you finish your workout due to all the energy your muscles use up to perform the hard exercises. Since HIIT training is so intense, I only recommend doing it 3-4 times per week, and lifting 4-5 times per week. You can combine your strength workouts with your HIIT workouts, however, you should perform the strength training, and perform HIIT as a burnout. Alternatively, you can combine strength and HIIT together into one workout. The following routine contains my favorite total body strength/HIIT moves:

45 seconds of each exercise and repeat each twice:
  • Squat jack holding a dumbbell
  • Reverse lunge with a bicep curl
  • Pushup to a plank row
  • Kettle bell swing plus overhead tricep extension

Equipment for a great HIIT session:

*Weight lifting gloves: Stabilize you during pushups/burpees, they also make holding the weight easier because your hands will likely be super sweaty

*Seconds App: My favorite timer for intervals. It even comes with built in timers so you can start using it right away!

*Stepblocks: Great for cardio moves such as quick feet switches

*Bench/chair: Effective for step ups or tricep dips

*FitnessBlender: By far my favorite free service for fun, effective workouts. They have over 200 HIIT workouts. I am not sponsored or affiliated, but have been using their workouts for years, and I’m not sick of them! All the workouts are typed out at the bottom for you to write down or print as well

FitnessBlender has a ton of HIIT and strength workout routines but here are some of my favorite moves.

Do each exercise for 20 seconds each, and repeat each for three times.
  • Squat jumps
  • Burpee with a plank jack
  • Side lunge with center hop
  • Pushup to a side plank dip
  • Reverse lunge pulse (x3) and switch

I will be recording my workouts very soon, and sharing it on my page so you can see these moves in action.


How to Stay Healthy on Vacation

Recently, I traveled abroad with my best friend to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. We left in the midst of January, the perfect time to escape the cold weather in Boston. The trip was absolutely lovely; it was nearly 80 degrees and sunny everyday. We rode horses, went to clubs, and mostly basked in the sunshine. Casa de Campo is an amazing resort, and I defiantly recommend it if your looking for somewhere to vacation! But the question is, is it possible to stay healthy on vacation? The answer is absolutely! In fact, vacation is an excellent time to give yourself a break. You deserve to relax and not necessary be stressing about diet and exercise every second. With that being said, there are still ways to incorporate healthy habits whilst on vacations.

The first thing is diet. Obviously when you are on vacation, you will be more tempted to eat unhealthy foods that you would not regularly indulge in. And that is okay! Moderation is key, and it is important to find balance when it comes to diet. If you want to indulge in dessert, or an extra drink, don’t feel guilty if you do. After all, since vacation only is a short period of time it is important to make the most out of it and splurge a little. I had dessert every night while here and I don’t regret a single bite! Even though I definitely splurged more than I usually do, I still kept my diet pretty clean. For example, for breakfast I would have eggs with vegetables and fruit or oatmeal with walnuts and chopped bananas. They also offered green juice at the breakfast buffet, which was delicious! Since we were busy throughout the day we didn’t really partake in a huge lunch, so I would snack more on fruit or veggies. At dinner, I would order fish, especially the catch of the day because fish is more delicious when it is fresh. With the fish, I would order rice and vegetables. Make sure to consume as many vegetables and fruit as you can while on vacation because it will make you feel your best. Also drink lots of water especially if you’re out in the sun all day.

When it came to exercise, I would do quick circuit routines in my hotel room if I couldn’t make it to the gym. These HIIT routines are highly effective in a pinch and get your heart rate up quickly.

For example, do 20 seconds on 10 seconds off (tabata style) of

  • Jump Squats
  • Pushups
  • Switch lunges
  • Jumping jacks
  • Plank jacks

and repeat each four times. Any exercise is better than nothing!

Most importantly, remember to relax while on vacation and don’t stress about your diet/exercise. It is most important to spend time with people you love and make the most out of it.


My Favorite Ways to Get Active

It is very important for me to exercise/move my body everyday because it makes me feel mentally clear. I can focus better and be happier in my daily life.

These are my favorite way to get active.

Running

I love to go on runs, particularly if it is a nice day outside. I usually run for 2-3 miles at a steady pace. For the last mile, I sometimes complete 30 second sprints. I run as fast as I possibly can for 30 seconds, and then rest for 30 seconds before completing the next interval. This is great for your heart, and also burns more calories than traditional running.

HIIT Workouts

If you are someone that likes to push yourself really hard, but not for long (like ripping off a band-aid), then HIIT workouts are perfect for you. I like tabata style best, 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off for a few rounds.

Example: Do 20 seconds on 10 seconds off, four rounds through for each exercise.

*Jump squats *Pushups *Jumping lunges *Jumping jacks *High knees *Bicycles

I get a lot of my workouts off the website/Youtube channel Fitnessblender. Their workouts are easy to follow, fun and free! Check them out.

Weight training

Weight training is also a part of my exercise routine because it helps me feel stronger in my everyday life. Despite contradictory belief, weight training helps you look more toned, not bulky, and can help slim you down. Here are my favorite strength training exercises, divided by muscle group.

Arms: *Bicep curls *Hammer curls *Reverse fly *Chest fly *Tricep extension *Overhead press

Legs: *Deadlifts *Squats *Side lunges *Regular lunges *Stepups

Yoga

Yoga is by far one of my favorite workouts-yes workout! Many people think yoga is not a good enough or intense enough workout but it really is an amazing total body workout. Hot yoga or power yoga is my favorite kind, and this form is a calorie-burning, sweat filled session that leaves you feeling both physically and mentally fantastic.

I hope you incorporate some form of exercise in your daily life, as the benefits go on and on and on.

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