What I learned about myself from a DEXA scan…

Sometimes I choose not to blog things. Sometimes because I am too busy to write. Sometimes because I don’t think whatever it is is interesting enough to interrupt people with. And sometimes, it’s simply stuff I don’t want you to know.

Yep. I got secrets. Sorry.

So when I preemptively told the blog-o-sphere that I was having a DEXA scan, I sort of set myself up to NOT be able to do that. Which kinda sucks.

To clarify, the whole reason I wanted the scan was I know that I need to move away from the significant obsession I have with weighing myself at least once a day. I do KNOW it’s a bad idea, not a great reflection of my body composition and can’t really be trusted to give me accurate information. In fact, Cathy knows my level of pain with the scale and tagged me in this post on IG during the DEXA day:

weigh

So I had the scan. I had it done at the University of Tasmania sports science unit. To be fair, the scientist did advise me that it was a very old machine and not capable of the type of information that modern DEXA units are. I still was a little taken aback at the sheer age of the thing. It looked like it was made in the 70’s from a factory conveyer belt and my Grandad’s camera. Fo Realz.

The UTas DEXA is older than this model and not in quite as good condition. Notice the natty computer it runs off.

The UTas DEXA is older than this model and not in quite as good condition. Notice the natty computer it runs off.

Also different is the level of information you get back from a modern DEXA. I was hoping for detailed information about the specific location of body fat held, but sadly this model was only capable of averages per limb and the trunk. You don’t get a print out of the information, but a written summary of what the operator interpreted from the scan. Even my sports scientist wrote though there was some ambiguity in the scan and the results may have been skewed in certain aspects.

But hey, enough blaming the equipment.

I came in at just over 32% bodyfat.

Huh. 32%.

In all honesty – I was expecting 25-26%. I would have been annoyed but understood 27-29% and would have been stoked with anything under 25%.

Nope. The machine in all it’s science-y wisdom says 32.4%.

I waited to feel crushingly sad. I put my polite face on, paid the man and walked to the car in the eerie drizzling rain, wondering if I was going to cry. I sent a message to a friend letting her know what it had come back as and said that I might cry. But I wasn’t crying. Not even close.

I sent a message to The Captain. I had promised him that getting a DEXA would end ‘the crazy’, which is the umbrella term we use for just about anytime I talk about my weight or size based on ridiculous perceptions I have of myself.

Message read:

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Being the awesome husband that he is, he offered to come out and hang out with me for awhile. He knows this stuff can knock me about a bit. But still, I was fine.

Not quite fine enough to leave it alone though…..

I mentioned in my previous post that I have in recent times been using an Inbody scanner to do a electrical bio-impedance measure of weight, muscle mass and body fat. So….

I drove straight to the gym and did another one. To compare apples with apples. As best I could.

On scan 2 months ago exactly I came up as Рhaving 31.6kg muscle mass and 28.7% Body fat.

Yesterday – 33.2kg muscle mass and 23.8% Body fat

So, what did that experiment tell me? That comparing data from the same machine with conditions as similar as I could (same time, similar clothing etc) showed that I was heading in the direction I need to.

AND – because I want a third and independent non-scale reference point – I have an appointment to have my body fat read with calipers next week.

But what did I LEARN from today?

That peace of mind for me in not in the numbers. Not even in the better numbers from the InBody scan. It doesn’t put my soul at rest. It doesn’t make my life easier or even really validate my feelings about the work I put in being worth it. I wish it did. Some part of me really, really wants to cling to data to tell me it’s all okay. Numbers are part of a sport that I really enjoy. Transforming your body in incremental steps is far easier to celebrate when you know the height you need to climb and the progress you make each week. That’s going to be the ongoing struggle.

But at the very end of the day, hanging out at home, I kept coming back to the idea of what I wanted to know from this whole exercise. I wanted a non-scale baseline where I could come back and reference this point in the preparation in three, six, twelve months and know then what I’d been doing for my body.

It was never going to tell me if I was happy with myself. Only I can do that.

So I did. Stripped down, no make-up, at the end of the day with 4 litres of water and 1900 calories in my belly – this is me.

wpid-img_20140910_145610.jpg

This is me. At 32.4% Body Fat. Or 23.8%, depending on who you ask. Look at that smile and ask me if I care ūüôā

And if this is 32.4% body fat, or 23.8% body fat or 40% body fat – I’m pretty darn okay with where I am.

Yes, I want to grow and develop and be lean and have a physique that others aspire to. But feck it – I’m strong, happy and healthy and capable of doing anything I want.

And I want to continue on this fun-filled adventure of eating lots and well, lifting heavy things and generally living life like a boss without guilt or shame or feeling like I am supposed to be anything other than where I am.

So yes, I’m going to change. I’m happy to be open and honest with you about the road and the fact it’s not going to be easy, and sometimes not¬†pretty.¬†And yes, there will be more scans, and tests, and weigh-ins.

But what did I actually LEARN from the DEXA. I learned that I’m okay. I’m better than okay, I’m good. And that I don’t need a machine to tell me that.

Beep. Boop. Beep.

Night all!
SV

Tomorrow is DEXA Day!

So we are coming to the end of my year off. Balance achieved, muscle growing nicely and health is finally back on track.

Which means… it’s time to think about the next goal.

I make no secret of the fact that I still struggle with having an accurate perception of my body. I freely admit also that I am a lot heavier than when I competed last week – about 10kg above that stage weight actually!

I am known for throwing massive tantrums, some angry, some in tears, because I want to be super lean again. As much as I know this time off was needed, it hasn’t been easy. I get crabby at The Captain because he is naturally slim and can’t possibly understand. I don’t believe him when he tells me I am not “fatty-fat-fat” as I may have ranted. He reminds me that I am healthy, stronger than I was a year ago, with more muscle and for the most part – less crazy. Not right at that moment. But mostly.

I hate the scales. Which is funny, ‘cos I’m pretty sure they hate me back.

Measurements are good but if they go down is it because I’m losing muscle?¬†Or should I look at an¬†increase in size as new muscle under my body fat and not get too worked up about it? And where the hell did I measure my ‘waist’ at again last time anyway?!

Honestly, I like hard numbers. When I was initially losing weight all that mattered was the number on the scale. When I was competing it was still largely about the number on the scale, but also about measurements and being calipered. Calipers…urgh.

Urgh. Don't touch my fat!
Urgh. Don’t touch my fat

So tomorrow, I’m having a DEXA scan.

What’s a DEXA? It’s a groovy machine! DEXA stands for¬†Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). It assesses total body bone mineral density and highly accurate measures of the body’s soft tissue composition (muscle mass and fat mass). By measuring my¬†body’s muscle mass, fat mass, and bone mineral density, it¬†can determine the¬†total body fat percentage, and changes in regional body composition. So, HOW MUCH fat I have and WHERE the fat is hiding.

Woohoo. Or yikes. Depending on how mentally prepared I am for the outcome.

Last time I had a DEXA was when I was at a ‘goal weight’ for weight loss but before I had really dreamed much of training heavily with weights or cared about much more than my BMI. I came in at just under 30% body fat then and coming from obesity (I estimate I had been 40-45% at my heaviest) I was pretty happy.

I didn’t have any DEXA scans while I was competing last but did have my body fat percentage tested by someone very experienced in it each week. In the week of my last ever show I came in at a fraction under 14%. There is a lot of literature about DEXA readings coming up higher than caliper readings as a DEXA also includes the fats in your body NOT held in your skin (so internal fats around your organs etc aren’t reflected in a caliper). So it can’t be a direct comparision.

I do sometimes use the InBody scanner at my gym which is a bio-electrical impedence type (like a VERY expensive version of bathroom scales that do body fat) and it had me back at about 28% a few months ago.

This infographic isn’t perfect, but is a helpful visual of how different percentages might look. Keep in mind the women pictured are all different ages/heights/builds/poses etc so it is a ROUGH guide:

body-fat-percentage-picture-men-women

I don’t really mind where I land on the body fat percentage tomorrow – I’m just more excited to have firm data as my start point which will allow me to build and shrink in the right ways again in the future.

Wish me luck!

Bella

This is me, say hi!

I get asked a bit for 'before and afters', It's hard because my life didn't stop when I got to my goal weight. In lots of ways, it just started. But, here are the cliff notes! Before, 2 years exactly on stage in a Bikini Bodybuilding show, and my normal 'running around' weight.

I get asked a bit for ‘before and afters’. It’s hard because my life didn’t stop when I got to my goal weight. In lots of ways, it just started. But, here are the cliff notes! Before, 2 years exactly on stage in a Bikini Bodybuilding show, and my normal ‘running around’ weight.

Waitin’ on the Next Big Thing

Let me share with you one of my flaws. It annoys the hell out of me, but at least I know that I do it – and that makes me pretty good at catching myself doing it and spying it in other people.

No, it’s not endlessly complaining about the weather. Or interuppting. Or standing in doorways chatting holding up people trying to get through. People find those things adorable right? Right??

Huh.

It’s my habit of wanting to wait for THE NEXT BIG THING. That shiny new thing that I’m going to see/have/do next. Now, wanting something big and new is not a bad thing. But the trouble is that I sometimes lose focus on the thing I’m doing right now.

Take my nutrition approaches. At the moment, I’m working at gradually leaning down again, managing my food intolerances and still using and enjoying the flexible dieting/IIFYM approach. It’s good. It’s working for me. I’m happy and the weight is coming off, muscle staying on and I’m feeling good. BUT…. buh buh baaaa

next-big-thing-sign

I’m going to a seminar at the end of this month that will be about fat loss in the female figure athletes and competitors and I’m fascinated to hear the approach of the pro’s that are presenting. I find myself second-guessing my planning for TODAY, sneaking a few extra carb macros and losing a bit of my focus on the NOW because “I’ll probably change it all again next week”.

And it doesn’t need to be something as big as a full nutrition change. Sometimes I feel like this when I’ve ordered a new product online and I’m just waiting for it to be delivered. I won’t train legs tonight as my new tights will probably get delivered tomorrow! :p Or when I know I’m coming up to a program change for my gym sessions. Suddenly, my ‘right now’ is less shiny and important that the new whatever-it-is around the corner.

It’s a common issue for my fellow 12wbt alumni and current members for ‘between rounds’. Two weeks off turns into four kilos gained because ‘it hasn’t started yet’.

Grr.

So I can’t give authentic advice here as it’s still very much a glitch in my own journey. I own that couple of days with silly lapses and am right back onto today’s goals and aims. But with each mistake I make, it gets easier to see and feel myself holding out. Making less of today because of the promise of tomorrow.

So do the best you can with everyday – even if tomorrow promises to be bigger, better, bright or even just completely different. Like another of my favourite Roosevelt quotes (from Teddy this time though):


theperfectmoment

Tomorrow is another day,¬†let’s make today awesome first!

Cheers Mateys,
SV

Balance is Harder than it Looks.

I try to be honest in that my motivation to be hard-core and strict has waned since last year.

After the mammoth weight loss and then going straight into competing – ¬†I burned out. I wanted to enjoy my life and eat meals with my family that weren’t broccoli and chicken from Tupperware. I wanted to actually spend some time with my kids, rather than picking them up from school/child-care only to drive them to the gym to put them in more child-care while I trained. I wanted to be able to train because I enjoy it and the way it makes me feel, not because of a terrifying deadline looming. I wanted to be able to see my food as something more enjoyable than it’s breakdown of calories/carbs/fats/proteins and to be able to look at my body and not see my weight or my body fat percentage.

So I changed how I eat and how/when I trained. This wasn’t as much of a conscious decision as it sounds. Just a lot of small choices about my priorities right now.

The upside of this is that I am SO MUCH HAPPIER than I was in September. I’m more relaxed about everything which ¬†makes me a better mum, a better wife and generally much less of a psycho to live with.

The downside of course, is that my body doesn’t look the way I like it to.

And that’s where I’m at right now. Happy with my life, happy with my quality time with my kids and husband but not entirely thrilled (or particularly upset) with the way that I look. I’m working on the physical side of my life but am dedicated to finding balance. As much as I enjoy¬†competing, and enjoy the bit of a lark when I can be uber-thin – I love feeling like a happy healthy human being who can interact fully in society more. I’ve had a birthday recently and I feel like I’m old enough now to accept that anything that asks me to give up and lose more than I can hope to gain isn’t going to make me happy.

I’m having a great time working on health and wellness for children in disadvantaged areas and I do sometimes wonder what on my death-bed (in my very old age) I’ll look back on and wish I did more of. What about you?

meaningful

For me at the moment, it all comes down to balance. I KNOW that I can achieve what I want without giving up what I love. I just need to make it happen.

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Happy Saturday,

SV

Well played Universe…Well Played.

I’ve posted a bit on social media of the last few days about coming to terms with the fact that I don’t want to keep fighting my body. I became aware that while I do love competing and pushing my body through a competition preparation in order to be lean enough to get up on stage and REALLY celebrate the work that I put in to my fitness¬†– I want to be gentle to myself too.

What this means is that while I am still preparing to compete during 2014, I’m doing so being more mindful of my health, balance and my happiness. I’ve moved to a way of eating that is more flexible and family friendly (IIFYM) so that I can eat more meals with my family and live like a real person. I’ve moved my supplements to a more wholesome and beneficial range so that I’m not loading myself up with more chemicals than I need. I’m trying to be more chilled out about my expectations of myself really.

It’s nice. I woke up this morning pumped and full of energy, had my breakfast, had my supps, went to the gym to train a PT client and then had a training session with Coach Corey. I felt awesome. Good deadlifts, good back and shoulders – feeling strong, feeling like I’m where I want to be.

It’s nice, this sense of peace and lack of urgency.

Then the doorbell rings.

It’s the Fed-Ex man with a small parcel containing three of the most beautiful stage bikinis ever.

I try them on.

They fit.

If I kicked my own ass they’d look great on stage sometime soon.

But I’d need to kick my own ass to do it in time.

This is me shaking my fist at the Universe. Well played Universe, very well played.

SV

If It Fits my …. What?

I wrote a while ago about finding my food religion. If you’ve forgotten you can see the rambling thought-process here.

About the time of writing that post I started looking into IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). For a really quick run-down of what that means, see below:

What Is It?

IIFYM simply means eating a diet that meets your macronutrient needs.

To break it down and start from the beginning, macronutrients are the three main food groups ‚Äď proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Each macronutrient has its own role to play, and is needed in different quantities depending on your goals, metabolism, training history, and many other factors.

IIFYM eating flies in the face of conventional dieting, and the notion that anyone who wants to get in shape has to eat a stringent diet, composed of a limited number of so-called ‚Äúclean foods,‚ÄĚ needs to eat at precise times throughout the day, must have certain types of food pre and post workout, and that any deviation from this strict structure is breaking the rules of dieting.

The idea of IIFYM is simple ‚Äď you eat whatever foods you like the fill your allotment of proteins, carbs and fats.

AND

That is the basic idea behind IIFYM.
There is more to it but it really is quite simple.
1. Know how many calories your body burns throughout an average day (your TDEE)
2. Eat 15-20% less calories every day than that number
3. Split those calories up between fat, protein and carbs in an ratio that is most beneficial for muscle preservation, fat loss, without a drop in daily energy.

So, the good news is that my life would be less regimented. So less broccoli and chicken six times a day. The bad news is that as soon as you mention IIFYM to anyone who has prepped the ‘old-school’ way, they immediately think of this:

IIFYM

Okay, I’ll be honest. You can do IIFYM and eat crap foods. It’s the truth. And people do.

It’s not what I’m about. I’ve worked my ass off the hard way to lose 50kg and be the healthiest I’ve ever been. While a big part of my new-found health is just through being lighter, I believe a large part is also just that I don’t eat and drink rubbish foods anymore. I don’t enjoy them, most of them don’t agree with my tummy and up until now they haven’t worked with the diet plans that I have been following. So why change now?

For me, IIFYM is about flexibility and diversity in the way that I eat. It’s my goal for 2014 and beyond that I learn to ‘live lean’. For me that means not having such a huge difference between my ‘on-season’ or show body and my ‘off-season’ body. To achieve that either meant following a comp diet year-round which is restrictive and well, boring. OR follow the rabbit hole to the promised land where I can eat a varied diet comprising of all food groups, ¬†cheat/treats when I want them and still maintain a lean body and muscle mass. And that is where I found IIFYM.

I got some initial advice, stalked a lot of interwebz and made myself a plan. I’m pretty sure it’s wrong, but I’ve been following it and my weight has been coming back down and muscle mass is increasing.

BUT, I’ve been lucky enough now to have been accepted as a team member in the IIFYM Challenge and will be undergoing some one-on-one coaching about my macros and targets to get myself back to that lean and happy place that comp prep got me to but that I couldn’t maintain. The challenge starts off properly in a few days and I’m excited as all get-out to learn more and see how this works for me.

IIFYM Challenge participant

You can find out more about the Challenge, register for future intakes and say thanks to the gorgeous sponsors of the free program HERE.

Until then…

IIFYM Cookies

Talk soon,

SV