Hi Krissy! Please tell us a little about yourself.
Hey there, I’m Krissy Dunker, and I’ll be 36 on August 23rd. I’m originally from Greenfield, WI which is a suburb of Milwaukee. I grew up there and attended college at a nearby liberal arts school (Carroll University) where I majored in Environmental Science. I met my husband, Brad, at Carroll, and we were married a year after we graduated. We just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary! Shortly after getting married we moved down to Boca Raton, FL so that I could go to grad school. In 2003, I graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a Master’s degree in Environmental Science (Ecology emphasis) and began working as an aquatic ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Everglades National Park.
I absolutely loved my time in Florida, but while living there, I realized I really missed the seasons. While living in Florida, Brad and I began traveling to Alaska and absolutely fell in love with it here. My position with the USGS was a term contract and was coming to an end. The lead scientist I worked for was retiring, and we were at natural transition point. My husband had been working with me in Everglades NP but also had a background in Urban and Regional Planning. One day he was searching through job announcements and found a posting for a Parks and Recreation Planner in Anchorage. On a whim, we decided it would be fun for him to apply. To our surprise, he was hired, and this began our life in Alaska. We moved here in 2006. While transitioning from Florida, I was very fortunate to be hired by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game where I work as a research fisheries biologist.
I specialize in two distinct areas. I’m ADF&G’s invasive species coordinator for our South central region. I plan, acquire funding for, and oversee all research, control, and eradication projects for aquatic animals in Southcentral Alaska. About 95% of my work in this area is focused on the issue of reducing the threat to salmon populations from invasive northern pike. The other main part of my position involves coordinating the permitting for the Kenai and Kasilof personal use fisheries and reporting on the harvest and participation patterns in those fisheries. For anyone who dip nets, you know what I am talking about. I really enjoy my career with Fish and Game. I feel like the work I do is meaningful, and it keeps me intellectually stimulated.
Brad and I also have a son, Will. He turned 3 at the end of May. He is a fun, happy-go-lucky little guy, and he constantly makes us laugh. It has been really awesome seeing the world though his young vantage point. It’s almost like learning about the world all over again, and it’s a lot of fun. Together we have a great little family and are enjoying our life here in Anchorage.
You started with Figarelle’s Fitness a year and a half ago, and in that time, what changes have you made in your life and with fitness?
Goals. I think before, I always had ideas of things I probably should be doing, but I never formulated those into tangible plans that I could measure progress toward. Goal setting has been huge for me. This has really helped me organize my life into workable pieces and actually make significant progress. Before learning the importance of goal setting, I think I was wondering quite a bit and not really finishing many of things I started. Directed goal setting has really turned that around for me. This has helped me lose 25 lbs. and over 12% body fat and has helped me gain substantial physical strength. I am stronger and healthier than I have ever been in my life. As a result I’m a lot more confident. I’m generally happier and more laid back about things, and I believe that goal setting has been key to all of this.
You’ve lost 25 LBS since May 2013. How has your diet changed since starting with FF?
I’ve been a chronic dieter for pretty much my entire life, and I wasn’t always the healthiest in my approach to dieting. When I was much younger, I even struggled through bulimia for some time. I’ve long since abandoned my actions associated with that disorder, but my issues with body image and an “all or nothing” approach to healthy eating had lingered much, much longer. These issues were still quite prevalent over a year ago when I began working with FF. I was using a different app, but I was already logging my food before I started up with FF. Adopting that habit with ‘My Fitness Pal’ was never a difficult thing for me.
What was difficult for me, however, was changing what I was eating. Before, I would limit myself to a really low caloric level (1200 calories), but probably 90% of that came from carbohydrate or processed sources. I wasn’t worried so long as I stayed under my calories. Or, when I did overdo it (which was easy to do at 1200 calories and fairly frequent), I’d say “screw it” and eat whatever I wanted for the rest of the week promising myself I’d start fresh on Monday. The only thing is that “Monday” kept getting pushed back again and again, so that years later, I had made no notable progress in losing weight by deluding myself into thinking my intermittent 1200-calorie routine was effective.
I have made substantial dietary changes since beginning with FF. I now pay very close attention to where my calories come from, and I’ve raised my calorie allotment up to a realistic level that I can maintain and will not stall my metabolism. I have generally mastered the macros, and that has been the biggest change to my diet. Chicken breast, fish, and fresh grilled vegetables have become staples of my diet. So have protein smoothies, ready-made protein shakes, and Quest bars.
With my heavy focus on my macros, I’ve removed most processed foods from my regular diet. I love to cook, so I still make lots of chilis and casseroles and stuff like that from scratch using fresh ingredients, but I figure out the nutrition information as I’m making a new recipe and store it in My Fitness Pal. I also add whey protein powder to almost anything I bake. It’s just become habit, and it’s actually kind of fun to experiment with (though my close friends do tease me a lot about this one). I drink 3-4 nalgene bottles of water every day, and in doing so, I’ve drastically cut back on other beverages. Before FF, I barely drank water and attained most of my hydration from diet soda. This habit change has obviously been a huge benefit to my overall health.
You and I have had many conversations on the subject of stress reduction as it correlates to good health. What changes have you made in reducing your stress and how have those changes affected your progress?
This was one of the big motivations of mine to start with FF. Yes, I wanted to finally succeed at getting physically healthier, but I was also really seeking a mental transformation when I came to you guys. I feel like I really needed it. I am so fortunate to have a wonderful family, awesome friends and coworkers, a successful career, a home, a fairly adventurous life by many people’s standards – I have it all. Yet, I was really bogged down for a long time with feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, huge amounts of stress about small things (and some big things). In my struggles to achieve balance in my home life, my career, and with myself, I think I prohibited myself from seeing just how lucky I am.
I’ve had some legitimate bumps in the road. I had an unforeseen bout of post-partum depression after my son was born, I’m pretty sure I do muddle through some seasonal affective blahs every winter, and recently, there have been some pretty serious health scares and conditions with my husband and his side of the family. Certainly those things are cause for some legitimate stress, but I think the norm for me was to get seriously flustered about littler things that could have easily been addressed by just being more assertive, managing my time better, or just taking a little time alone to refresh.
In other words, I tended to sweat the small stuff – a lot. I don’t think I even realized it until one of my personal training sessions with Steph last spring. I started the session complaining about whatever it was that was stressing me out that day – honestly I don’t remember what it was. What I do remember was Steph pointing out to me that every time she saw me, something had me stressed out. Steph and I have really interesting, inspiring and productive conversations during my one-on-one workouts, but this was probably the biggest ‘light-bulb’ moment I ever had in those discussions.
I was on this major quest to improve myself and my mindset, but I wasn’t yet succeeding in turning my negativity and stress around. Internally for me, this was really a turning point, and I have been actively working ever since on trying to focus on what is right in my day instead of what is wrong. I’m taking time every day to read. Sometimes it’s fun fiction because that’s what I’m craving, but most nights I read productive books.
I finished ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin and ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg during the challenge. I am now immersed in ‘The 7 Habitats of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey. I try to meditate most days for at least 10 minutes. I can honestly say I’ve barely had the television on this entire summer. With this, I have seriously cut back on watching or reading the news (this I began a year ago when Steph suggested I try a media fast). Cutting the news out of my life has really been a huge step in reducing unnecessary stress. I highly recommend it.
I’m also a lot better at ignoring annoying stuff on FB. I used to get really irritated by insensitive political posts or things like that that I’d disagree with or prefer not to see. Ignoring the media has helped me ignore so many silly little things that were taking my energy away from things that really do matter. The other really big thing is that I’m working every day to try to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones. When I feel down about something, I try to retool that thought into identifying what I should be grateful for instead.
It is amazing how much happier this little exercise can make a person. It is not always easy, but is really worth practicing. Incorporating small changes like these have made me see things in a much more positive light, and shifting my mindset has made me believe I am capable of achieving the goals I set. Ultimately, this is really improving my self-confidence, and this ends up being a positive feedback loop where positive changes in my mindset fuel positive changes in my fitness and overall health.
You were the female winner of the 2014 Burpee Challenge that we held in June this summer to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis. How did it feel to win that, and what was it like to accomplish that many burpees in 15 minutes?
That was fun! I honestly had no expectations to win. I just wanted to beat what I did last year. My husband, Brad, was my counter, and as a metaphor for my overall experience this last year and a half, he was a great motivator. I was proud of the burpee challenge because it was obviously for a really great cause, and another FF member had pledged $1 for every burpee I did, so I was happy to help add to the money we raised. However, I surprised myself. Things like this do really demonstrate to me how much my strength and stamina has improved. I was pretty tired after the 15 minutes were up, but it was a really, really good tired.
You regularly attend small group personal training, Boot Camp classes, and 1-on-1 personal training. What are some of your favorite things about each of those programs?
I honestly love all three, and I think they complement each other very well in my overall fitness program. I enjoy boot camps for the great cardio workout. I like working to improve my performance with difficult stations (i.e. pull-ups or TRX ab exercises), and I really like the energy of the large groups. The positive atmosphere, the encouragement, the high fives, seeing the physical changes in other boot campers, all these things are really motivating and just fun.
Small group is also great. It’s like a hybrid between boot camp and personal training. I am in a group with coach Lela, and she makes the workouts both really fun and very challenging. We have a great group, and I like that we can have a little more personal interaction while the workout is going on. I really enjoy lifting weights, and that is more of the focus in small group workouts, so I really like that.
Personal training, of course, is just awesome. I have a really great trainer. I really do value the one-on-one interaction and the stimulating discussions that we have while I’m working out. I get a killer lift in every session (I really love arm days), and I learn so much in our discussions. The personal training sessions have really trained me to put together effective workouts when I’m on my own at the gym. I really enjoy all three programs, and they all have unique qualities to them that make them really fun.
When you want to relax and indulge, what are a few of your favorite “fun” foods?
Dove dark chocolates or frozen yogurt. Actually the plethora of FroYo places that have popped up are, in my opinion, a good option. Obviously, you can mess up your calories and macros pretty good if you don’t pay attention to your portions or go crazy with the toppings. However, if you stick to about 6 ounces and use fruit as a topping, you can quench a sweet tooth and get some decent nutrients in for under 200 calories and only a few grams of fat (if any at all). I like these places because one of the harder things Brad and I have changed since starting with FF is not going out to eat nearly as often.
Taking our son out for a frozen yogurt feels like treating ourselves without the overindulgence of other restaurants or ice cream places. Otherwise, if I have enough calories at the end of the night, I’ll have one or two pieces of dark chocolate while reading. It is a relaxing sweet-tooth quencher that works for me. I also invented another multi-purpose dessert for evenings when I have a few extra calories and am under my protein: Whey protein malts. Fred Meyer carries malt powder. I throw in a scoop of chocolate whey protein, a tsp. of cocoa powder, a little vanilla extract, 2 tbsp. malt powder, a cup of milk (or a small spoonful of low-fat ice cream depending on your consistency preference) and 2 cups of ice cubes. Blend it all together and you get a yummy malt with >30 g of protein for under 250 calories. Vanilla whey powder with keylime juice and optional strawberries is also a very good combo.
I know that goals are important to you and you’ve been focusing so much on setting new ones. What’s a goal that you have that really fires you up and maybe scares you a little?
Well I’ve recently gotten very close to my 15% body fat goal. My last measurements were at 15.5%, but I still have some extra me that I want to shed. I think I am going to have an actual weight goal from here forward. I want to drop to and end at 135 lbs, which is what I was when I got married. I am just excited to see what that will look like with more muscle this time. I’m on the home stretch, but I would really like to get there before our holiday maintenance challenge, and I think that is doable.
Dropping down to that weight doesn’t really scare me because I want to conclude the fat loss part of my journey so much, but the dieting mindset has been with me for so long that I’m almost a little apprehensive about what it will be like to be liberated from it. I’m so excited to just live healthy and maintain my end goal, but at the same time, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t actively thinking about losing weight. I just wonder what that will be like.
I want to get dive certified! I have a deep passion for the ocean, and I feel most alive when I’m donning a snorkel mask and fins over a coral reef. I love that so much. I want to take that to the next level. I really want to do it, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me a little nervous. The self-reliance part of the sport and knowledge that I could get myself into dicey situations when diving do scare me a little, but I know I’d love it, and this is where I’ll put my self-confidence improvements into practice.
I’d like to run Lost Lake. That’s another goal. I’m a heights phobe, so that’s the scary part, but I think it would be a really fun goal to work toward and train for.
You’re very close with your family. How important is it for you to be a healthy role model to those around you?
This is very important to me. I want my son to grow up healthy. I’m really proud of my husband. He’s been shadowing what I’ve doing diet-wise, and he’s been doing fantastic. He’s trimmed down a lot and has been working really hard. He had a cardiac scare a little earlier this year, and it just reminded us how important it is to maintain and appreciate our health. I just returned from a visit with my family in Wisconsin. I’m very close with everyone there. I was asked questions about what I was doing diet-wise, and I felt really proud being able to answer them and share some of what I have learned. I think that health is something we all take for granted until it is gone, so if in some small way, I can inspire those around me to try to be a little healthier, than I feel like I’ve done something a whole lot bigger than my personal journey with this.
We all love the physical changes that we get from eating a healthy diet and working out, but the emotional benefits are often not given as much attention. What are some mental and emotional improvements that you’ve experienced over the last year and a half?
I think I touched on this a little earlier, but the mental retooling was what I was after even more than the physical change when I started with FF. Being healthy, fit, and more capable works wonders in boosting self-confidence, and I really feel that change. I think I’m a lot more productive at work. I take work stresses in stride a lot more. I think I just have more trust in myself that I can handle it. I notice this a lot with public speaking which I have to do a lot for work. I all out had a phobia of this at one point. I’ve noticed that with the presentations I’ve given over the last year, the awful nervous feelings are pretty much absent. That’s huge for me. I am more relaxed.
I’ve learned that it is ok and actually vital for me to make myself a priority in my life. I can’t take care of anyone else if I’m not ok first. I think we’re often conditioned not to feel that way for fear we’ll be viewed as selfish or narcissistic. I’ve learned that this is not the case, and that making myself a priority is essential to my happiness as well as the happiness of those around me. My perspective is much more positive because of it. I feel so much gratitude for the good things in my life, and I’m really proud of what I am accomplishing. Shedding some of the negativity has been a real sense of freedom for me, and ultimately I’m just so much healthier now both inside and out.