Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

Deprive and Binge


There is an endless cycle that exists within most of us. It’s like we can’t help ourselves. We go from one extreme and then suddenly change gears, and go directly for the opposite of that extreme. We put ourselves through hell sometimes and it almost seems impossible to pull ourselves out of it. Think about it: have you ever gone on a diet, so determined to make it work and keep your calories low only to end up stuffing yourself the moment dessert presents itself? Have you ever yo-yo dieted? Have you ever lost the weight only to gain it right back and then some? I know I have and I’m certainly not alone. This is the deprive and binge.

In both cases we are punishing ourselves because somewhere deep down we think that there is something wrong with us and the way we look. So we eat too little or far too much, leaving you feeling weak with hunger (or in denial about it) or feeling like an oompa loompa ready to be rolled out of the room. It definitely doesn’t help that we’re constantly hit advertisements and marketing ploys that push us into that direction too. Even we’re all aware of these things, many of us still struggle to shift away from them and it’s pretty clear why…

There are 2 things that I know for sure:

  1. People in general are not eating enough, but…
  2. Everyone thinks they are eating too much

With everyone that I have coached and worked with and for every person that I`ve ever had a conversation with about nutrition, they all have these 2 things in common. Most people truly believe that they are overeating because they tend to be grazers eating bits of food here and there throughout the day. In reality they are not taking in enough overall calories and when they do eat it`s usually somewhat unbalanced where the nutrient timing is way off. All of this leads to long term undernourishment, making it impossible to lean out and carve out some nice muscular curves. Instead we may end up a little softer than we’d like ultimately leading to the determination to finally get in shape and never eat anything fatty again, until you once again find yourself gorging on nachos and margaritas with your besties on the next girls night out.

Even after we become aware of all of this, we still resist it. I can’t tell you how many people still say that can’t hit their calorie goal for the day or they think it’s too much and they refuse to eat more than 1600 calories. We just can’t quite seem to let go of the notion that in order to look a certain way or achieve that goal weight, we have to eat tiny portions, restrict ourselves and keep the calories low. This is what always leads to the inevitable deprive and binge, where maybe you can keep the calories ultra-low for a while, but you will most likely rebound.

This whole thing is a really hard cycle to break, but I swear to you that it is possible. The first step is to start eating a solid amount of food every day. You need to eat and you need to nourish yourself, and chances are that unless you are in a contest prep like me or if you are 110lbs of muscle with low body fat, then you need to take in more than 1600 calories daily. Keep your meals balanced and focus on nutrient timing. For example, before any workout eat a combo of protein, complex carbs and a little bit of fat, and after working out focus on fast digesting carbs with protein and keep the fat to a minimum. If you lie to nosh at night after dinner, then have a small meal that combines protein with fat (keep the carbs low) so that you get in some slow digesting nourishment during your sleep time. Trust me here, this works. When I finally released the notion of having to restrict myself in order to look a certain way, everything became way easier. I ended up building lean muscle, nice curve and leaning out really well. Getting stage ready and getting into great shape wasn’t as hard as I thought. The struggle was gone and instead I was able to sail through each day and each workout easily because I was fueled up and ready to go.

So how about we all stop going from one extreme to the next by depriving ourselves and then going crazy on food when we just can’t take it anymore? How about we change gears and focus on eating enough of the good stuff every day? There is no reason to punish ourselves or to even entertain the notion that the way we look is a reflection of how awesome we truly are…I know this sounds all woo-woo enlightened and stuff, but to be fair, I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been on both sides of this thing. We do punish ourselves, whether you are aware of it or not. Reprogramming this takes time, but it is possible through feeding yourself well every day. If you can set yourself up for success like this (which I know you can) then the struggle will finally be gone for good.


Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

How to have a healthy AND fun holiday


Everyone always talks about “surviving” the holidays. Countless fitness experts give out holiday survival guides and a whole slew of tips to make it to the New Year in one piece. No matter how many of these guides we read or how much we may vow that this will be the year that we don’t overdo it on the food and drink, at one point or another it just gets too complicated and too tempting to not indulge. So instead of just surviving the holidays let’s focus on how to be healthy AND realistic during this busy time of the year.

Your mindset is what will really allow you to actually enjoy yourself. I hear countless people complain about the holidays; how busy they are, all of the obligations they have, events to go to, gifts to buys, etc. If you go into it thinking about how much this is going to suck, then it IS going to suck. Start off instead with an attitude of gratitude and focus on the fact that you have people in your life to spend time with, the means to purchase or make special gifts for them, a home to host dinner in, a job and (ergo) coworkers to celebrate with, etc. Think of it that way and it’ll just help you gain a little more perspective the next time you find yourself dragging yourself to the shopping mall for some last minute gifts to buy. With your mind right the rest can be fairly straightforward.

Nutrition tends to be a big problem here for most, with the endless family gatherings, restaurant lunches and dinners with friends, and office cocktail parties. The standard solutions that you’ll hear from everyone else is to get your workout done first thing in the morning, fill half your plate with vegetables, alternate between alcohol and water…So I’m not gonna bother going into it any further than that. What I will say is that most of the time these strategies re short lived, trust me I’ve tried it myself many times. But if this happens to work for you then great, otherwise just do the best you can. That doesn’t mean giving yourself permission to have 3 pieces of dessert and 4 glasses of wine in one sitting. What this really means is keeping your health in mind with everything that you choose to put into your body. You know that veg is good for you and that fried stuff isn’t, so just be aware of how many bites of decadent foods you’re eating. It can be challenging though because we tend to mindlessly munch as we mingle and socialize. The solution that I always follow is to eat how I normally would on any other average day and have a meal before I leave home. It may seem counterintuitive, but when you go into an event already satiated, the trays of canapés are far less tempting. If you go into it after restricting yourself all day, then you’ll no doubt overeat, possibly binge and get that awful overly full feeling that leaves you bloated and regretful for days. On the other hand if you’re already well nourished, you can approach each meal more objectively and choose the foods that actually look good to you.

If you happen to be on a weight loss journey or contest prep and you are concerned about the Judgy McFoodPushers, here are a few tried and true strategies for you:

  • Pretend like you just came from another cocktail, dinner or other gathering and are pretty full as is
  • Fake a tummy ache. It seems childish, but it works. “My stomach has been so upset since yesterday” or “I have the worst heartburn, I’ll just stick with water for now thanks”.
  • For contest prep, do as I do and just say no. When I’m in prep, I don’t care what anyone may think or say, I’m not eating anything off plan unless my coach says so. Worst case scenario just pull out a pic of you on show day and let everyone know that this is what you’ll be doing soon “so shut your stupid face”…or maybe something a little nicer J

This is a big concern for a lot of my clients, especially those who don’t want to invite others into their personal weight loss journey. Everyone’s got an opinion on weight loss and it’s always a hot topic, so if you don’t feel comfortable sharing, then use any of the above options.

As for exercise, well I say go for it. Try to stick to your usual schedule as best as you can, but if that’s not possible then make sure that you are at least moving throughout the day. Take five to ten minutes to sit quietly and do some light stretching; think of it as your “you time” in the middle of your busy schedule. I personally love going to the gym during the time; there’s far less people so the equipment is always free and it’s time to myself. Even though it may be tough to step out of the comfort of your home, you’re guaranteed to feel great afterward and get a nice mood boost.

Try to enjoy yourself at least a little. If you’re fortunate enough to have time off from work or school, then take the opportunity to get extra rest and start developing health habits to bring you into the New Year. Remember to treat yourself, but do so wisely and if you happen overeat at one point or another, then make a better choice at your next meal. Have fun and stay healthy.

Contest Prep, Fitness

The illusion of bodybuilding

Bodybuilding is all about creating the illusion of the perfect physique. In reality, there is no such thing as the perfect body, but bodybuilding as a sport allows its athletes to strive for it as closely as possible. Everything is geared towards this from nutrition, exercise, sleep, hydration, supplementation and so on. Bodybuilding is a 24/7 endeavour that, when done properly, will produce that coveted dream body that most of us wish we had year round.

With the Bikini category, the illusion that we are trying to create is one of broad shoulders, small waist, developed glutes, a nice s-curve in the body without a lot of mass or muscle striations. Judges want to see someone lean with lots or definition minus the bulk of traditional bodybuilders. What most athletes will notice as they go through a prep, is that their natural body shape and genetics may not allow for this to happen, so they have to tweak their training to give the illusion of this look. A prime example is for an athlete who doesn’t have a small waist, but  that can build muscle really well to instead focus on building up the glutes and shoulders to create more curve that way, and give the appearance of a small waist by keeping everything in good proportion. For someone like me who is a hard-gainer (gaining muscle is very difficult), I instead would focus on leaning out without losing muscle by doing steady-state cardio for only 20-30 minutes instead of interval training like most athletes will do.

It’s not just exercise either. Nutrition is an exact science when it comes to competing and photoshoots. We tweak our diets every couple of weeks to make constant progress by gradually reducing calories and for many, cutting down carbs and fats. Usually the last phase of contest prep is the toughest where it’s all protein and almost no starchy veg or grains, and very little if any added fat. This is what gets us super lean. It’s what has to be done in order to look the way that we do. The goal with leaning out is to see as much muscle definition as possible and the less body fat you have, the more visible the definition will be. When I say super lean, I mean 8-10% body fat for the ladies and 2-5% for the guys. Just as an FYI, ladies are considered healthy at around 20% body fat and men around 15%. Yes, it’s that low and no it’s not something that can be maintained long term without hitting some serious health risks.

This is what 8% bodyfat and 50% muscle mass looks like:


In the weeks leading up to the contest we chug water like crazies (about 2 gallons per day), drop the salt intake and start in on the diuretics in order to get as efficient at shedding water as possible. Then about 2 days out water starts being trappered off. This prevents any potential for bloating to once again be able to show as much muscle definition as possible.

Pre-spraytan vs post-spraytan

One thing that most may not take into consideration is posing. Posing will ultimately make or break you. You can hide almost any disproportionate, unsymmetrical or underdeveloped area with the right posing. In back pose, for example, you position yourself to slightly flex (but not squeeze) the glutes in order to make cellulite magically disappear and if your waist isn’t super small, but your back is developed then you can flair out your lats to make it look like you do. The smallest adjustments can have a huge impact. Posing is super technical, we are twisting and tightening certain areas to look a very specific way and show off our best assets. Another example is in front pose where you’re feet are shoulder width apart, toes forward, but you turn your upper body completely to one side and then have to turn your shoulders forward to give your body a lean and curvy look.


Then there’s everything else like the spraytan, posing suit, hair and makeup. The spraytan is mandatory FYI, and although up close we look super weird, on stage it’s all good. Without the tan the bright lights will just wash us out and no matter how shredded you are the definition will not show without it. The suit and hair and makeup are all to give us a glamourous look. Up close we look over the top, but on stage it’s a nice and well put together.

Pre-makeup vs post-makeup


As I’m sure you can tell by now, everything really is an illusion here. So the next time you find yourself wishing you had rock-hard abs and a cellulite-free tush, just remember the amount of work that goes into it and that your bodyfat has to get super low, but your muscle mass needs to go up (otherwise you’ll just look skinnyfat and puny). I must admit that there really is nothing quite like looking in the mirror and loving how your physique looks, or the way it feels when you place your hands on your belly and feel abs. But I honestly only appreciate it because I know the work that I’ve put into it. It’s not the endgame that matters but the road to it that really allows you to reap what you sow.


Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

Pulling myself together


To say that the last two years of my life have been tough would be the biggest understatement ever. Not only have I dealt with health issues, lost loved ones and a job last year, but now just as I thought things were starting to get stable, my marriage is ending. This all happened very suddenly without warning and was a huge shock, now I’m once again picking up the pieces and attempting rally myself back into sanity.

I wish I could say that I channeled all of my anger and hurt into some pretty beastly workouts, but that’s not the case and it’s definitely not what I needed. I decided to not force myself or try to push myself into what did not feel right. What I really needed was a break. I was already planning on taking a week off of training following my photo shoot and boy did I need it. This all happened to coincide with my starting a new job, so that extra time off was not only helpful physically and emotionally (due to my impending divorce), but it was also helpful in giving myself the capacity to focus on some new work.

So I took the week off and gave myself a breather. I started working out again, but keeping it very quick, about 30 minutes of weight training on my lunch break. It’s just the right amount time to work up a small sweat and maintain my mass. Now is not the time to be going full speed ahead that’s for sure. And although I was planning on starting to prep for Nationals and maybe doing a mass gain, I decided to hold off for at least a month. This will give me enough time to get into a good rhythm and routine with my day to day and new life altogether.

In terms of nutrition, well let’s just say that I’m going really easy on myself. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been ordering in or getting take-out, eating whatever I felt like and it’s been good. I’m not binge eating or overeating, but I’m not regimented either. No measuring or weighing food, no macro calculations or anything like that. I am still trying to keep it balanced, but if I do feel like having a bucket of spaghetti and a slice of chocolate cake, then I will. If I feel like ordering pizza and breadsticks and fries, then I do. I’m just eating well without overdoing it or beating myself up over anything. I must say that it’s nice to not be doing a big meal prep and to instead just pack leftovers for lunch or pick up something that looks good and healthy.

The positive thing is that now I’ve started to really develop a good night time ritual where I drink a hot chamomile tea on my balcony in the evening in my jammies and then curl up in bed with a good book and read before it’s lights out. I haven’t gotten into meditation or anything like that, but I’m sure it’ll come along soon enough.

Apart from my changing eating habits and my intense urge in wanting to redecorate my home by going on a daily shopping spree, everything is still good and I’m hanging in there. Whatever message the universe keeps trying to send me, I guess it hasn’t come through yet, but at least for now I can enjoy some extra independence. Maybe having more leeway will allow me to create even better habits in the long run and make my prep for Nationals a little less intense that I had planned. No matter how this plays out, I’m still an athlete and still competing and still coaching people, maybe just at a slower pace for now.


My First Photoshoot!

I’ve been wanting to have a professional photoshoot for a long time and this past weekend I finally did it! It was a total blast, but surprisingly tiring; I guess that’s why models always talk about how hard modeling is 🙂

In the weeks leading up to the shoot I did a mini-prep where I followed the same training plan as my last contest-prep, but gave myself a little more leeway with the diet. There were no drastic cuts in calories or low-carb anything and I enjoyed weekly treat meals throughout. The only big thing I did was a 1 day carb-load and a water depletion, just to get some good definition going. It definitely helped and in that one day I was able to get great definition and fullness back without the bloat. It never seems to amaze me how much water we hold onto and how much it actually can change the way we look. I didn’t want to come in looking stage ready or super shredded, in fact, I don’t think that my body could handle another cut like that this year. Instead I wanted to look like me; fit and strong in a natural way because that’s who I am.

The day started good, my lovely sister/makeup artist came over and did a stunning job on my face.

I loved the way the makeup turned out and I wish she could come over everyday to help me get ready!

I headed over to the studio with my mama, but unfortunately the photographer had given me the old address for the company and so we wound up starting a bit later than we’d planned.

I must admit that it was really fun and that it’s exactly what I thought it would be like; music playing, the photographer giving me directions on how to pose and this giant camera flash every time I struck a pose. It was fitness based so I did have to do some workout movements with weights and it is really tough curling a dumbbell when you’re completely dehydrated. It was totally worth it though and every time the photographer showed me one of the shots I was amazed. I almost couldn’t believe how good and sharp it looked; way better than any pic a cellphone could take.


This was another super fun experience on my fitness journey and I’m so glad that I decided to do this and so grateful that I found such an awesome photographer. I highly recommend a professional shoot for all entrepreneurs and fitness athletes. Not only is it a cool thing to do, but it’s also something special to add to your repertoire. Whether it means having professional shots for your own company or for your fitness career, it’s definitely worth it. I had an awesome experience for a few hours, that I got to share with my mama. And afterward I got to indulge in these babies.


Yup, we found gold! Vegan donuts. I had 4 on the car ride home! Not  a bad way to spend a Saturday.


Fitness, Nutrition, Recipes, Wellness

Why fitness isn’t for free


When I first earned my personal trainer certification I started doing a couple of plans for free. I did these for some friends and relatives with the hopes of gaining some extra experience while also helping others get healthy. My thinking was that I was going to be a great resource for people who were looking to get fit, without them having to spend a fortune on some fancy group coaching service with weekly meetings and a minimum buy-in.

Well…I was wrong.

The reality is that if there is no investment, there are no returns. Think of it like this: right now you could google fitness and nutrition plans you will get an endless number of free options. How many people have actually followed those free plans on their own, gotten great results and be able to maintain these results? Very few if any at all. When there is no investment, there is nothing to hold you accountable and accountability is what will keep you on track when you are ready to throw in the towel. Ultimately, when you make this investment you’ll want to get your money’s worth.

Prime example: Someone had asked for my help and I had happily put a plan together for them; they were looking to a significant amount of weight. Well, one day they called me up just to chat and casually mentioned that they were going to pick up a bag of chips. Naturally I started telling them that this wasn’t part of their program and that they would only be hurting themself. This person responded with “I DON’T GIVE A SHIT!” and then they hung up on my face.

Just because you decide that you want to get in shape doesn’t automatically mean that it’s going to happen. You can read all of the fitness magazines or sign up for as many free challenges as you want , but until you actually take massive action and start getting to work, you will never be able to change. What you have to know about weight loss is that it’s work and that it is a lifelong commitment. This may seem intimidating, but what’s the alternative? Continue feeling crappy all the time and disliking the way that you look. Why waste your precious time standing in the dressing room picking apart your body, when you could instead feel great and love every part of yourself? Seriously. You need to invest in yourself. I didn’t become a nationally qualified bodybuilder on my own. I hired a great coach with contest experience who specialized in vegan nutrition. I could have easily gone to the gym and picked out any trainer who would put together some generic plan for me, but I knew that it would be a total waste of resources for me. The investment got me the support that I needed and it created the accountability to fully commit to my goal. I still had to put in a ton of work, but it was totally worth it.

It’s the same principal with groceries. So many of us talk about how expensive it is, but the reality is that quality food and nutrient dense food can be more of an investment that the junk food that has no business being in your grocery kart.

At the end of the day, you get what you give and if you want to finally get healthy and lose weight FOR GOOD then it’s time to invest in yourself and get to work. You don’t have to go to the most expensive gym in your area or buy the most expensive protein powder out there, but you have to invest in the right training and in the right nutrition. And by right I mean the best balance between challenging, enjoyable and great quality. If you love to dance then try a Zumba class, if you’re competitive then try powerlifting or bodybuilding, if you love having a sense of community then try out Crossfit. Nutrition-wise, well if you love chocolate everything then try my Raw Protein Brownie, or if you are all about sushi, well I’ve got a low-carb sushi recipe that will knock your socks off!

The moral of the story is this:

Commit. Invest. Progress.

It’s time. You can do this and I can help. To schedule your FREE 1 on 1 no obligation coaching call click here

P.S. Don’t forget to check my newly released EBooks! There’s an awesome recipe collection with delicious meal and snack options that are 100% vegan. And for those of you looking to go-it alone in terms of losing weight or getting fit, check out the nutritional guide and workout plan!

Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

You’re on your own


Taking the decision to start living a healthy and fit lifestyle is awesome! It is without question one of the best conscious choices that you can make in your lifetime. Chances are, when you decide to embark on your fitness journey, you’ll be super pumped, I know I was. It’s this exciting adventure that you get to do just for you and you alone, for your own personal reasons. It opens you up to an entirely new world and subculture in the fitness community. One very common drawback that many people will experience at one point or another is when their spouse, family or friends are not on board. I’ve heard so many people talk about how challenging it is or how this has caused conflict in their relationships, and even I experience this today with my husband from time to time. It doesn’t always have to be a huge fight though and there are some ways that you can spin this around to make things way easier for you while still staying strong.

Before we take it any further, take a second to acknowledge why you’ve decided to change your lifestyle. Maybe you’ve been sedentary and eating unhealthy for a long time and you’re finally ready to lose weight. Or maybe you’ve been working out for a while, but are pretty inconsistent and you don’t really pay attention to nutrition. Or Maybe you’re a gym rat who’s ready to take it up a notch and start training for your first competition. Regardless of your “why”, your reason is what will carry you through when the going gets tough. Use this decision as a means to hold you accountable and to keep your eye on the prize. Whether it be the number on the scale or setting a new PR or winning a shiny trophy, your reason behind this lifestyle upgrade needs to always be at the center of your mind. Get super clear on this because you will need it if ever someone gets upset with your choice.

At some point someone will probably say something negative about you spending time at the gym or staying away from junk food or ordering something lighter at a restaurant. Naturally most of us will get defensive and then an argument will ensue. Some people just get quiet, but then it can lead to massive resentment instead. Neither is good for a relationship. Here are a few tried and true tips form yours truly, that can help take the edge off without ending your relationship:

  1. Communication is key. It is so important to very clearly articulate why you are doing this and why it is important that you continue. Explaining that this is something that you are doing for yourself and your well-being can help shift the other person’s perspective a bit. Focus on the health aspect above all else when having this conversation and explain that the healthier you are, the better you feel both physically and emotionally. Instead of coming home after work and crashing on the couch, you’re coming home from the gym feeling energized and positive. Your mood is better, your sleep is better and you’re just way more pleasant to be around.
  2. Think of it from their point of view to get a better understanding of what they’re really saying. If you’re spending an hour at the gym each day instead of being at home, then they probably just miss you. If you’re ordering something healthy at a restaurant then it might be making them feel self-conscious about their own choices.
  3. Compromise when necessary. If your workout schedule is interfering with your obligations, then instead of scrapping it altogether when you spouse says that they need your help (fill in the blank) and resenting them for it, change up your timing. Switch to morning or midday workouts or break up your workout into three smaller separated workouts to fit in the time. It may be an adjustment for you in the beginning, but with time you’ll adapt without neglecting your responsibilities.
  4. Get extra help. If time is your problem then consider getting with to free up some space in your day. For example, if your weekly meal prep takes three hours out of your life that you’ll never get back, then consider using a healthy meal delivery service that fits your budget. If the time you spent cleaning your house each week could be better spent working out, then hire a weekly house keeping service. Yes, these are added expenses, but if they can make your life easier then go for it. Budget accordingly and make it happen.

One final point that I’d like to make is that some may have an issue with your financial investment in this. In this case, I say it’s your life, your body and your health. Do you want hit 60 and feel like garbage all time struggling to walk up a flight of stairs or get out of bed in the morning? Or would you rather have the stamina to crush your day, feel energized and spent time with the ones you love? I’d choose the latter. You are investing in your health and your life, it is the best investment that you can make.

Denise K