Fitness FAQ

Welcome, Lisa Dutchak from Strength in Balance Fitness!

Welcome, Lisa Dutchak from Strength in Balance Fitness!

A couple weeks ago I posted a blog about weight loss. At the end of it, I mentioned an upcoming post featuring Lisa Dutchak, personal trainer at Strength in Balance FitnessThis is that post.

I spend a good bit of time on various health and fitness forums, and there are a lot of opinions about the best way to lose weight, build muscle, etc. and I wanted to talk with Lisa about maybe discussing some of the more frequently posted topics. As I mentioned in my weight loss post, what works for some doesn’t work for all, and I think it’s a matter of trial and error to find what works for you. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen.

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Lisa, my friend and go-to person for all things fitness, nutrition, and lifting…

Me: What inspired you to become a personal trainer?

LD:   After really beginning to educate myself during my weight loss and body recomposition journey,  I realized that I had been doing it wrong for so long….and that so many other women are doing the same things that I had done time and time again.  It was through this education and experience that I really developed a passion for health and fitness and since I have always wanted to do something where I could help people, becoming a trainer just really seemed like a natural fit.  The idea of being able to make even one person feel the way I do now is just so rewarding.

Me:  A lot of women will tell me that they want to lose all their weight before they attempt to lift heavy. What are the benefits of lifting weights when someone still has a lot of weight to lose?

LD:   Ah there are so many! First and foremost, from an overall health perspective, strength training is great for your bones and joints.  As women, it’s a great way to reduce your risk of osteoporosis.  Working with weights while losing weight helps you to retain the muscle you already have so that the weight you are losing is primarily fat.  This helps to keep a nice shape to the body. Muscle also burns more calories at rest than fat does (not a load more, but any bit helps!) so overall your body is expending more calories which is never a bad thing.  Strength training also helps to improve day to day activities.  If you have small children, you will find it’s easier to carry them around or lift them up.  If you have pets, you will find that carrying those large bags of pet food is much easier. Even things like regular house cleaning gets easier because you are stronger and more fit.

Me:  30-Day Challenges are very popular right now. What are your thoughts on working the same muscle group three days on, one day off for the duration of the challenge?

LD:  If a 30-Day Challenge is what gets a person from being sedentary to being somewhat active, then I’m all for it.  I don’t think that these challenges will give an individual the types of results they may be looking for or are thinking are possible due to claims made about the challenge, though.  In my opinion, the appeal of these challenges is that they are straight forward and not time consuming.  Most people are under the assumption that regular exercise and activity must take hours upon hours every day of the week and that’s simply not true.  There are many ways that you can become active without leaving your home.  More is not necessarily better.

Me:  Many women are intimidated by weight lifting because they worry they will get bulky and manly. Can you explain why this is such a difficult look to achieve, and that women really don’t need to worry about “accidentally” getting bulky?

LD:  Simply put, it’s just not possible.  First of all, women just do not have the testosterone needed to get “bulky.”  Secondly, in order for the body to produce new muscle tissue, there must be enough calories available to use for new muscle tissue generation.  This means that an individual must be eating well above their maintenance calories (the amount of calories one needs to consume to maintain their current body weight).  Individuals that are looking to achieve that “bodybuilder” look  train in a way that is conducive to that look.  They eat for it and they train for it and often times they supplement for it.  Even for men, it can take years to achieve that look.  It will not ever just “accidentally” happen to a woman.

Me:  Proper nutrition is very important component of weight loss. Another popular trend is near elimination of various food groups, either for a set amount of time short term, or for the long haul. Why do you think certain foods are “demonized” and why is this an unhealthy way to look at food?

LD:  The media plays a big role in the demonization of food groups.  The health and fitness industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry and due to that there is always some new bandwagon to jump on.  The fact of the matter is that there is no one food group that is bad for you.  Protein, carbs, and fat all play critical roles in the way the body functions.  Besides legitimately diagnosed medical conditions, there is no reason to ever eliminate a food group from your diet.  

Me:  While we’re on the subject of food, what are your thoughts on VLCD’s (very low calorie diets)?

LD:  The fact is that VLCD’s do give fast results.  Do I support them? No.  I have done the 1200 calorie/day diet and have known many people that have and the end result always tends to be the same: we gain the weight back.  Why? Because in real, day to day life, a VLCD is just simply not sustainable.  Sure, it can be successful for a period of time, but then the individual starts to feel deprived and binges and then that binge turns into 2 days, 1 week, 1 month, and before you know it, the weight that was lost is back.  By adopting a more long term, lifestyle driven approach and creating a moderate deficit a person will not only lose weight, but will do so in a way that still allows most of the foods that they love.  This way they rarely feel like they are giving things up.  The individual is able to learn healthier eating habits and strategies and set themselves up for long term success, rather than an ongoing roller coaster ride.

Me:  Oftentimes, individuals embarking on a reduced calorie diet and a new workout regimen become frustrated when the scale doesn’t move, or worse yet, moves up, rather than down. What causes this?

LD:   If a reduced calorie diet and a new workout regime are started at the same time there is a good possibility that any losses could be masked by water and/or glycogen in the muscles; essentially fluid retention.  This can last a few weeks so it’s certainly nothing to be alarmed about.  If after a few weeks the scale is still not moving, then it’s time to take a closer look at both the diet and exercise plans.

Me:  Five words: muscle weighs more than fat. Your thoughts?  (And let me just say this one drives me nuts 🙂 )

LD:  One pound of muscle and one pound of fat weigh the same… pound.  The difference is that one pound of muscle takes up much less space than one pound of fat; it’s the volume that is different, not the actual weight. 

Me:  What advice would you give a woman that says she is too busy/doesn’t have time, but wants to lose some weight and get healthier?

LD:  First of all, weight loss can be achieved through a caloric deficit alone.  However, being active is imperative for overall health, plus often it does allow for a slightly higher caloric intake. There are many ways to be active that don’t have to include going to a public gym.  There are effective workouts that can be done anywhere and at any time.  Also, an effective workout is not determined by the amount of time spent exercising, but rather the effectiveness of the workout.  Doing something is always better than doing nothing! It’s important to make lifestyle changes that are realistic and that fit within your lifestyle.  This is where the advice of a coach or trainer can really prove invaluable.  There are many professionals out there that will work with you to determine realistic goals, programming, and nutritional habits that fit your life.  And lastly, you are important and you deserve time for yourself!  Making healthy lifestyle changes set a great example for everyone around you: your kids, spouse, siblings, family, friends, and colleagues.  

So there we have it! Some no-nonsense, straight-forward answers from a knowledgeable, certified personal trainer.

I hope that this helps to clear up some of the misconceptions about weight loss, strength training, and nutrition.

Until next time…


This particular entry has been floating around in my brain for several weeks, now, and I am so hoping to be able to articulate what I want to say without a crap-ton of confusion. A current event helped me get it together, so here goes…

Just this week the “What’s Your Excuse?” image by Maria Kang made the rounds in the media, social networking and fitness sites. There was a lot of discussion about how she is fat-shaming by putting that image out there. I didn’t see it that way. My personal take on that image was that if we, as women, want something badly enough we can have it (an exception being that money tree in the back yard that still hasn’t come up), and that we can allow our excuses to prevent us from reaching a goal, or we can simply stop making excuses and prioritize what we REALLY want, and get out there and get it.

Yeah. Me. See my chins? *sigh* Not my proudest picture, but we all have to start somewhere...

Yeah. Me. See my chins? *sigh* Not my proudest picture, but we all have to start somewhere…

A year ago I may have very well been on the other side of the fence on this debate, simply because I was borderline obese, and was kind of in denial (ok, maybe more than kind of; I saw myself as a little plump), and my first thought upon seeing an image like Maria’s would have been, “Who the hell does she think she is? She doesn’t know me. She doesn’t know my situation, and who is she to be asking a question like that? Judgy McJudgerson Woman…Grrrrr.” Why is my current reaction just the opposite of the one I would have had a year ago? I think that, looking back now, deep down I KNEW I was sorry as all get out, and lazy; really lazy to have allowed what used to be a pretty dang good rack to get to the point that it was last winter.

I think I mentioned earlier in

Ten years ago.

Ten years ago.

the year that the catalyst for my “lifestyle change” was a fall I took in January that resulted in my having to visit my doctor. There they made me get on the scale and it told me I was weighing in at a cool one hundred and ninety-two pounds. Me! Seriously? Ten years ago I was weighing in at a comfortable 145-ish when Johnny and I got married. See why I was more than a little surprised by the number on that scale? By that point, I’d done Weight Watchers twice, and gave it up twice because it is literally humiliating to go to the weigh in and have the scale lady tell me, “Oh. Up a couple pounds. You’ll do better next week.” It doesn’t LOOK toxic to read it, but the tone, people…Delivery is everything, WW Ladies, so do be mindful of your tone when you tell those women that the numbers went up. Actually, you may not need to say anything, because most of us know how to read a scale and will feel bad enough without any narrative from anyone else. Just sayin’. A couple of years ago I started counting calories and made it down to 163 from 170-something and stalled. For a month. Then two months, then three. I gave up. And while I didn’t think my eating habits had changed? They had, because the following year, I was up to 180 and some change. Got it back down to 163 again, where it stayed, and then I kind of fell off the wagon. Whoops…

I never thought that I would post my “fat with chins” picture on my blog, yet I’m doing it. Why? Because maybe it will reach someone who doesn’t think she can get back down to a healthy weight, or that exercise isn’t for her, or that there is just no way that she is going to starve herself to be thin.

So, baby steps, right? I wasn’t going to call it a resolution, simply because I break the hell out of those things by the end of January, soooo, I signed up for the mud run, picked up a copy of Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, and got to it. Of course, by mid-February I decided Jillian was the devil incarnate, LOL, and caught the weight lifting bug, and have been lifting regularly pretty much ever since, with a 5K or two thrown in for good measure.

The weight started coming off. And I mean good chunks of it; I rolled those numbers down on a regular basis. I hit 163. And OHMIGAWD, I stalled. Again. But I kept at it. I adjusted my calorie intake, I tweaked my activity levels, and I set goals. Specific, due date driven goals. One was bikini by Memorial Day. Did it. Even wore it to the beach last summer. In public and everything. Boom! At some point, I dropped down to 159, putting my BMI in normal range. High normal, but normal, nonetheless. I made it to that point without eating my way through one son’s unfortunate incarceration and my youngest son moving out before graduation, and the subsequent graduation SNAFU in June.

It fits! There is still a little more of me than there was (about 12 pounds more), but I don’t care what the scale says...

It fits! There is still a little more of me than there was (about 12 pounds more), but I don’t care what the scale says…

My next goal was my wedding dress. I wanted to be back in that baby by December of this year, because Johnny & I are contemplating renewing our vows and I thought it would be cool to get back into the dress. And I did. I got back into the dress three whole months early; in September. Here’s the thing: I believe my weight was sitting right around 157 when I took the goal picture in early September.

There is a lesson in the above paragraph, and that is: THE SCALE IS A LIAR! Sometimes the water retention from switching up a workout, or adding weights to the bar will result in some excess water weight. So can eating that bag of sunflower seeds. I love sodium, but it is really puff-inducing stuff, so I struggle to limit it. Measurements, ladies. The tape measure is your friend and mine. 🙂 While the scale told me I was probably not going to get into that dress, my measurements said that I probably would, and the tape told me the truth.

Other lessons learned to this point? There are no evil foods. Carbs are good. Fats are good. Protein is awesome, and it isn’t just in chicken, thank God! I also learned that skinless, boneless, tasteless chicken gets old fast, so you have to be creative. Salmon is amazing. Avocados are a terrific and healthy source of fat. Y’all know how I love my wine, right? Still do. Still drink it. Moderation is good. Eat within your calories. Hell, you don’t even REALLY have to exercise to lose the weight, altho I like it because I get more calories. “Will Workout For Wine,” needs to be my bumper sticker, LOL. Okay, that, and picking up the heavy objects regularly has been a huge boost to my self-confidence, and has come in handy when one needs to move 60 pound bags of concrete or get a 40 pound bag of bird food into the house. I also learned that finding a type of exercise that you enjoy doing is a big plus. If you like and enjoy it? You’ll do it. I like Zumba and love heavy lifting, so when there’s a Zumba class I can crash, I will. I lift four times a week, and I dance around the studio every single time I hit a new high. (I pinched a nerve shortly after hitting a personal deadlift record last June and after a four week lifting break, I had to start over again with just the bar, and you can cool believe that I danced all over my studio this morning when I got to put the 45 pound big girl plates on the bar for my deads!)

Where I am now: My jeans all need belts. My blouses are too big (can you say RETAIL THERAPY?), and I am in the best shape of my entire life. I am 1.4 pounds away from my goal of 150 pounds. 🙂

Where do I want to be? Ok, to be honest? Because I am going to turn fifty in June of 2015, I am really thinking hard about working toward a fitness competition. Most likely the bikini division, but haven’t decided in the affirmative, as yet. I want to look the best that I ever have by June 30, 2015, bikini competition or not. CAN I do it? Oh, absolutely, I can. Do I WANT to do it? That is the question. I know that time-wise it won’t take much more time than I am putting in right now. Do I think I want to have the discipline that it is going to require to eat the way I need to so that I can achieve the goal? I’m still thinking about that. I’m going to do a bulk for a month or two, then cut, which will bring me to early 2014, and that still gives me plenty of time to work it if I want to compete next summer. Time will tell. I CAN tell you, though, that if I want it? I’m gonna have it.

I’m going to leave you with an image I did earlier today for a “fitsperation” thread over on MyFitnessPal. I’m not where I want to be, ultimately, but I’m a whole lot further along than I was when I had Johnny take the first image I posted in this entry.


I Hate Going to the Doctor!

And y’all wonder why I hate to go to the doc’s office…

So I went to the doctor today. I just started seeing a new family practitioner last month who is actually an MD, and not a nurse or a PA.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I have had some issues with occasional elevated liver enzymes. This all started when I had to start taking meds for my thyroid.

So I go to my follow up appointment, you know, after all the blood work and the mammogram (and the girls passed with flying colors), I get to the weights and measures room, where I learned I gained four pounds. If that wasn’t bad enough, while one nurse is adjusting the blood pressure cuff, the other is telling my my liver enzymes are all screwed up. Again! And they wonder why my blood pressure shot up to 160 over 100. Do the math, people!

So I get in to see the doc, and next thing I know, she’s all talking specialist and biopsy. WTF? This has been an ongoing thing. She tells me to knock out the wine (double WTF) and go back to the gym and lose weight (triple WTF!). Dammit! No wine AND the gym? I must’ve done something horrendous in a past life to be punished like this!

Hey, I know… Let’s look at a different thyroid medication, or since I’m on such a ridiculously low amount, let’s just suspend it for a few weeks and test it again?

I don’t know about you guys, but I have too much going on to have anything more severe than the sniffles wrong with me!

Fine. I’ll go to the damned gym. I will cut out the wine, but dayum! Do NOT come at me or my liver with that big ass needle. No, thank you. You can keep it.

I still have way too many important things on my bucket list to be getting a bunch of mid-life health issues going on, you hear me? I’m NOT having it.

PS…Because my BP was to the moon, I also get to go to the health nurse at work daily for the next month and keep a blood pressure journal to take back with me in a month. Did I mention dammit?

PSS…I went to my last ever back to school night earlier this evening. :(. Baby Boy is a senior this year. My little guy is all but grown up.

Vent over.

That is all.

Carry on.