Holly has been working with Figarelle’s Fitness since November 2012. In that time she’s made some incredible changes in her life. Holly is this month’s Figarelle’s Fitness family member of the month, and we chose her because she is constantly improving, challenging herself and inspiring those around her. I caught up with her and picked her brain on a few different topics related to fitness and health. Check it out!

You’ve been working with Figarelle’s Fitness for a little over a year now. In that time, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve made, both mentally and physically?

The last year I’ve completely revolutionized my world; mentally, physically, personally and professionally.    I knew I needed big change; I felt horrible, I was out of shape, I was trudging through each day and my health and relationships were suffering.  When you look at the results of the whole, the changes are big, but I was very careful not to change too much all at once.  The most important thing was that I also knew that I needed to create change that was doable and sustainable.  Forever.

First I focused on physical changes.  My goals were to lose body fat and lose weight.  In order to do this, I really focused on nutrition by cutting out almost all processed foods and sugar.  I ate real food; meat, vegetables, dairy and healthy fats.  I cut WAY back on alcohol.  I did everything Lela told me to do with nutrition.  My daily macronutrients were about 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbohydrates.  I never lied to myself.  If I ate it, I logged it.  If I had 6 ounces of whiskey, I logged it.  You need to see that reality staring you in the face in order to make real changes.   I have to admit that my body responded pretty easily to fat and weight loss, so the physical changes happened pretty quickly.  After about 4-5 months, I was down almost 30 pounds and 12% body fat.  That’s when the real challenge began.  Not only did I have to figure out how to sustain this new body forever, but I also FELT AMAZING so these physical changes were beginning to spark other, deeper changes.

Mentally, I set new goals for my life.  I wrote down what I wanted to accomplish.  I started actually DOING these things. Professionally, I set boundaries at work.  I created an exit strategy for my job.  Personally, I had deep conversations with myself and my husband about what the hell we really want to do in this world.  I’ve set in motion my future professional goals that include working toward healthier everything! This includes the individual and working all the way up to the policy level.  Recently, I began moonlighting for a consulting company to work on two important statewide contracts, Alaska Food Policy and a statewide physical education policy assessment.  The work has been very fulfilling and exciting.  I feel a new energy about my professional work, how I want my day-to-day life to be.  It’s simple, really; I just want everyone to have the opportunity to feel as good as I do.  Everyone deserves it.  And it’s possible.

Holly: November 2012. Just starting with Figarelle's Fitness.

Holly: November 2012. Just starting with Figarelle’s Fitness.

As you know, your diet is a big part of staying healthy and attaining your fitness goals. Have you made any recent changes to your nutrition?

Well, now that I’ve shifted to maintaining these changes, I’ve increased my calories and increased my protein to 40%.  Also, I stopped eating back my exercise calories. This is do-able most of the time, unless I happen to do two workouts in one day.  Then I need to eat more.

You’re a very goal oriented person. What big, new goals do you have on the horizon?

Well, half marathon this year and marathon the year after.  Also, I am working toward a yoga practice that includes inversions; headstands, handstands and arm balances. The goal that is taking up most of my brain energy is my career.  In the next 18 months, I will shift from a career of public service to running my own business.  The details of what that looks like are still in the works!

Yoga has become a pretty big part of your life. What does it do for you, and what would you tell someone who may be interested in making it a part of their weekly health and fitness routine? 

For me, yoga is the perfect complement to the range of workouts I complete at FF.  Every week at FF I do two bootcamps, one small group training session and one personal training session with Lela.  These four sessions, in addition to one or two additional running workouts every week get me the cardiovascular, strength and interval work that I love.  We stretch at all of these sessions, however I think it is critical to spend more dedicated time on flexibility, mobility, balance and meditation.

Even more, yoga has helped me really explore what my body can do by focusing on mind-body-breath connections (stay with me here, you can make this as spiritual as you want; it can be spiritual or not.)  Yoga helps me be aware of what is really going on with my mind and body.  Why does my hip feel a certain way?  Why can I balance on one leg better today when yesterday I kept falling over?  Jeez, I was cranky, but now I feel more grounded after 90 minutes of yoga.  Every week I try to do at least one yoga practice, usually two.  I am 100% sure that I my yoga practice is improving because of the strength, cardiovascular and metabolic workouts at FF and I’m 100% sure that my workouts at FF are improving because of my yoga practice.

Running has also become a big part of your life. What running-related goals do you have? 

A year andago, I just wanted to jog at a slow and steady pace without my heart rate shooting through the roof, and nine months later, I ran one 7:30 minute mile and I completed the Lost Lake Run (16 miles).  This year I plan on completing the Mayor’s Half Marathon and the following year I’d like to complete a full marathon.  I can’t live a life without completing at least one marathon, right?

Time and time again we have people telling us how inspiring you’ve been to them. How does it feel to know that you inspire and motivate those around you (us included) on a regular basis? 

Knowing that I am and continue to be an inspiration to others is something that was very difficult for me at first.  Shifting my mindset about this was another part of my transformation.  I think it’s because I’m making the changes that I’m making for extremely personal reasons and in order to talk to others about the changes or challenges or successes, many times it requires me to share very personal details about myself.  Also, I kinda think that I’m not all that interesting or different from anyone else.

But then I changed my mindset somehow.  We are all people.  We are all, just normal people, in our own heads, living every day and dealing with our own shit.  But we also all have interesting and unique things about us.  And somehow we’ve all found this place, that is supportive and real and safe and nobody is giving or taking any bullshit.  So when someone is looking to me for inspiration or motivation, I’m gonna give it to them.  Because they need it.  I’m gonna give it as best as I can.  However, they need to know that I’m looking right back at them for the same, exact thing.   Because I need it.  It’s like a responsibility or a commitment or something.  If you are willing to let it get that personal, in order to achieve the big, authentic, goals, you have to be willing to share in this commitment.

What advice do you have for maintaining balance and consistency with healthy eating and fitness? 

This has actually been very challenging for me because to achieve the goals I wanted, I had to make significant changes to my existing habits.  Also, and I’m totally aware of this, I can be an all or nothing kind of person, so achieving balance is challenging for me.  I haven’t told ANYONE this, but I have this weird thing that I do.  It’s like the Holly-Test for maintaining a balanced and consistent life when it comes to exercise and nutrition.

I call it the “am I being a freak?” test.  For example.  You are invited to a potluck.  Should I bring a measuring cup and a food scale?  No.  That means you are a freak.  Go to the damn potluck and eat like a normal, healthy human being.  Don’t stuff your face.

Another example:  You have been very successful cutting back on alcohol.  It’s Thanksgiving.  Your favorite Uncle meets you at the door with a round of your favorite drink for everyone.  Do you say, “no, I’m sorry, but I’m gonna sit this one out and watch all of you have a very thankful toast”.  No, that means I’m a freak.  Just have one drink and be thankful for everything you have.  ONE.  Don’t have six drinks, that also means you are a freak.  Just have one.

Last one:  You are feeling great because you started an exercise routine and are beginning to see results.  You think, “wow, that’s awesome, I should do more of this.” Before you know it you are working out two times a day, six days a week.  Stop.  Don’t be a freak.  You are gonna tire yourself out and/or hurt yourself.  This is not balanced.

Holly: March 2014.

Holly: March 2014.

We all have days when we’re tired and maybe not so pumped to workout. How do you handle days like that?

Well, honestly, it’s simple, really.  Again, I shift my mindset.  I make sure I have enough quick energy to eat before the workout (I call ‘em quick carbs), I play my car stereo loud enough to give myself a hearing impairment and I just tell myself that today’s workout is going to fucking rock.  That’s it.  It works 100% of the time.

We all need to indulge a little from time to time. What is your favorite “fun” food or drink?

I don’t do “cheat days” or anything like that.  I’ve tried to maintain my nutrition to the point where I have a small amount of what I’m craving whenever I want it.  I generally find that I don’t have a lot of cravings doing this.

But my absolute favorite thing to do (which to many is going to sound not indulgent at all) is to make a HUGE bowl of popcorn.  I MEAN HUGE.  Drink as much champagne as I want and watch Project Runway.

Starting a fitness routine can be intimidating and incredibly challenging. What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out? 

I have two pieces of advice on this topic:

1.      Be honest with yourself about your goals.  You can’t just walk into a gym and declare, “I want to be skinny.”  It will never work.  You need to know why you want what you want.  When I sat down and really started thinking about my goals, before I even walked through the door at FF, I sorta scared myself. That’s when I knew I was ready.

2.      Find the right place to achieve your goals.  I knew that I needed a unique, supportive environment if I was going to have success.

Holly: March 2014.

Holly: March 2014.

On the other end of the spectrum, it can be even more difficult to sustain your new way of life. What are some tips you can give to someone who’s reached their goal weight and just wants to maintain it? 

Oh boy.  I sort-of don’t even know how to start answering this question because maintenance and sustainability have been big challenges for me.  OK, so I lost 30 pounds and a ton of body fat.  Now what? After FF posted the first blog post that included my before and after pictures, there were two people that personally reached out to me and made comments that have had long-lasting, huge impact on me.

The first was my favorite yoga instructor at Anchorage Yoga.  She had the normal inspiring and congratulatory things to say, but she also said something that I hadn’t thought of yet.  Something that scared me, actually.  She said, “Holly, now the real hard work begins.”  She was right. I figured out pretty quickly that it was hard to stay at the body fat and weight that I had achieved.  I was running A LOT and didn’t plan on continuing to run the mileage required to prepare for the Lost Lake Run all year.  Also, some of my lady parts weren’t happy, if ya know what I mean.  So I needed to adjust.  I decreased my running mileage and increased how much I was eating.  PHEW!  Lady parts are happy again.  Still, the small adjustment I made, actually created a larger upward change in body fat than I wanted.  So I am continually making small adjustments.

I am lucky that my body responds fairly well, and fairly quickly to adjustments in nutrition and exercise.  The hard part is finding the sweet spot.  The sweet spot that is healthy and maintainable and that I am satisfied with.  I honestly think I don’t have great answers for this yet, I am still figuring it out.  Daily.

But what really keeps me moving forward toward my goals, because I am NEVER going back to where I was a year and a half ago, was something that another person said to me.  One of my best, dearest friends from college called me after that same blog post.  She left me a voicemail (I save it and listen to it when I need to) and she said, “Holly, I wanted to comment on that blog post to tell you how amazing you looked, but that’s what everyone else was saying and I mean it differently.  I’m calling to tell you that you look SO HAPPY.  And I’m really proud of you for looking SO HAPPY because that’s one of the hardest things to achieve in this life.  And you’re doing it.”

Here’s the CRITICAL component to the “Am I Being a Freak?” test.  You can’t lie to yourself.  CANNOT.  You cannot use this test simply to justify something that you want to do but know that you shouldn’t.  I’ll admit; sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.  But if you are being real and honest with yourself, you’ll figure it out.

So that’s it.  Maintenance and sustainability of the physical body are fucking hard.  I know I will figure it out though, because I have my whole life to do it.  The most important thing for me to remember is that the changes I made have been more than physical.  I’ve changed my mindset.  I’m happier.  I know where I’m headed in this life and now, unlike before, it is exactly where I WANT to be going.