The truth about what the scale says

K and I have had our ups and downs with our diet over the past three to four weeks. We celebrated our three-year anniversary with a weekend away to the Cape Winelands – and yes, as the name implies, it’s all about good wine, great food and gorgeous scenery. Of course, those of us who are following either healing or weight-loss diets know that ‘special occasions’ aren’t excuses to veer from our diet plans – but I will be honest with you and say that both K and I treated ourselves to our indulgences!

I for one have been embarrassingly lax with my diet, and daily I struggle with various deep-rooted food demons – but that’s not what this post is about.

The point is that, despite the occasional indulgence over the past near-month, K has been committed to eating paleo at home, at work, and most times when we go out. She’s also been exercising regularly and in just three weeks, has lost 4kg.

Now, she hasn’t been happy with this amount of weight loss, but I think it’s amazing, and here’s why:

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Let’s get one thing out the way first: some people start exercising and then increase the amount they eat – it’s the weird treadmill/McDonalds anomaly that manifests in some people’s brains. So if you are working out and gaining weight, but you’ve increased your food intake or started indulging more, this doesn’t apply to you. However, If you appear slimmer/more toned, as the lady in the picture above does, and you’re clearly getting into better shape, why does the scale stay them same, drop only a little or even increase?

There are two main reasons for this.

One, it could be water weight. You’re sweating more, so you’re drinking more water. Water weighs a lot – just ask the Biggest Loser contests, who down gallons of the stuff if they want to lose a weigh-in.

The other reason is that muscle is denser than fat, so gaining weight could mean that you’re losing fat and building muscle. The scale going up (or staying put) could indicate that your hours at the gym are paying off, if you’re not ‘phoning it in’ of course.

fat-vs-muscle

The point is, you need to consider the entire picture. If you look better, feel better and are fitting into your clothes better, your diet and exercise routine is working, regardless of what the scale says. However, if you’re bingeing and looking flabby, even though you’re working out every now and then… well, sorry, but you’re doing it wrong.

Also remember that the slower you lose weight, the better: losing weight slowly is the key to keeping it off. Quick losses usually equal quick – and bigger – gains.

This article will ring so true for many people, and it’s something I aspire to. I’m ‘skinny fat’ – relatively slim (though I never think so) but out of shape. I feel motivated by this article to take myself in hand and treat my body the way it deserves to be treated. Thanks for the inspiration, Lonni!

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My first crossfit experience

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Exactly 12 hours ago, I was pretty convinced I was about to heave up a lung. I was almost at the end of my first crossfit class and my lungs were not happy. Neither were my glutes or thighs, though no one else in the class seemed to be having their lives flashing before their eyes. The two flights of stairs down to the exit were a cruel, cruel joke. My legs seemed to not want to work any more – they were like, ‘This is payback for what you just did to us in there. You want to get the car so you can go home and weep? NEVER! You’ll be stuck in this gym for the REST OF YOUR LIFE!” Again, no one else seemed to be having this kind of tussle with their lower limbs, especially not the Nordic-god-esque Swedish guy who virtually glided out of the gym in a puff of Armani fragrance and extreme blondness.

This all took place at Black River Park Crossfit, the gym in the office block where I work. I discovered them some weeks ago, and since I usually have an hour to kill before work starts (due to a frustrating parking situation), I thought it’d be a good idea to use that time productively. I’d never tried crossfit before, though I was smugly certain that Jillian Michaels had prepared me for anything.

Er, no.

The gym offers a free ‘Launchpad’ week, consisting of three introductory crossfit classes. It’s compulsory for anyone who wants to join the gym and hasn’t done crossfit before. I was interested to learn that the aim of crossfit isn’t necessarily to be a standalone form of exercise, but to help improve your performance in the other sports you do. I once did two weeks of field hockey when I was 14, which has been the grand extent of my sporting career. I was also heartened to see, on the wall, a description of the ideal crossfit diet, which of course you probably know is basically paleo.

First… from the back

There were 8 of us and in general, the class went well. What (almost) killed me were the circuits – running, followed by push-ups, sit-ups and squats. My asthmatic, smoker’s lungs (don’t judge) really struggled with the sprinting parts – I’ve never been a great runner. However, I didn’t have any trouble with the sit-ups, and the push-ups were okay too. But those damn squats!

I know that crossfit isn’t a competition and everyone works at their own pace, but I hated being last in everything. I’m strong enough to do it but I’m slower than these lean, tall men. I really want to be that teen movie character who looks super cute in her gym outfit, and all the guys think ‘oh she’s just a girl, ha ha, she’s no match for us with her painted nails and coordinated outfit’ (as an aside, I wasn’t wearing a coordinated outfit but I did have very chipped gun-metal metallic polish on my nails). And then of course when it comes to the crunch, the girl kicks their butts and wins the trophy and goes home with the hottest girl on the cheerleading squad and the guys are shocked and amazed and super jealous.

But no. The reality was an entirely different beast. Like literally a beast. I was red-cheeked, huffing and puffing, and I was first from the back. It wasn’t a pretty sight. BUT I pushed through and finished everything, which I’m proud of.

Never. Getting up. Again

My muscles aren’t exactly excruciatingly painful today, but they feel quite jelly-like. I’m pretty convinced I’m walking funny. The best way I can describe it is that my thigh muscles feel ‘seize-y’. The next class is tonight, which I’ll be attending, and the last one is on Thursday. I’m not sure that crossfit is for me – to be honest, I don’t like working out among so many men – I just get shy and uncomfortable, which is ridiculous. That said, I saw the muscles on some of the ladies and – though I’m not one for hashtags – I immediately thought “#WANT”.

From zero to crossfit

Another reason I’m so glad I’m doing this Launchpad challenge is because K is also doing crossfit at the moment, in preparation for the Impi Challenge. Considering that, one month ago, the most exercise we were getting was getting out of bed in the mornings, this is a huge achievement for us. The other day a friend was saying to me that I don’t ‘have to worry’ about exercise because I’m not overweight – but that of course is missing the ENTIRE point of physical activity, and it actually made me feel more guilty for not working out more. So it’s definitely something I need to include back into my life. I used to be very dedicated to my Jillian Michaels workouts so that might be a great place to (re)start.

Either way, I still have 2 more crossfit sessions ahead of me, and who knows, maybe I’ll fall in love with it. The instructor is awesome and very encouraging. I know that when he’s looking at me, he’s thinking, “Shame”. That’s a real South Africanism and to understand what it means, read this or this. Basically, you never want someone to look at you with sympathy in their eyes and say, “Shame”.

However what actually comes out of his mouth is, “That’s awesome you’re doing great keep going well done that’s amazing you’re a hero you could rescue babies and puppies from burning buildings OMFG look how many sit-ups you’re doing in a row and you aren’t even holding your thighs I would also totally walk that last part of the sprint it’s actually so clever that you’re using it for recovery time the rest of the class is DUMB because the aim of crossfit is to come LAST and no it’s not a competition but YOU WON because of the fact that as I just said the aim is to come last and OMG you are AWESOME please show me that jog/drag/walk/crawl thing you just did I WANT TO LEARN IT because it is AMAZING.” Shame, he’s a very good actor.

Okay, I’m going in for round 2 today. Send good wishes! Send asthma pumps! Send in some back-up – I may need a stunt double for this.

Day 4 and an easy way to start exercising

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Everyone knows that the key to losing weight is diet AND exercise (sorry about that, I didn’t make the rules). But those of us who are trying to heal our bodies through diet also need exercise, even though that might sound counter intuitive, especially if you’re struggling to maintain your weight.

Exercise doesn’t have to be about burning 500 calories on the treadmill or ripping through a crossfit workout (although it can be!). Doing yoga or taking a walk is amazing exercise for anyone trying to develop a stronger, healthier body without necessarily losing weight. As we know, exercise is one of the most important building blocks of physical and psychological wellness. My nutritionalist recommends a 4km walk several times a week (it only takes about 40 minutes), or a few yoga or Pilates sessions each week.

K recently joined our local gym and she and a couple of colleagues work out during lunch time. One of them – J9 – happens to be a pro fitness buff, and she accompanied K today. I later received this email:

Time: 1.41pm

Subject: J9 killed me. I am dead.

She made me do all this [workout attached – it was pretty insane]
I did everthing except the burpies.
Not that I have anything against burpies but by that point I was on the verge of throwing up. And I didn’t want to make a mess.
This whole thing took us an hour.
Oh and as a warm-up I did 9 mins walk/run on the treadmill… and of those 9 mins I did a full 3 mins of running (not in a row). But still. That’s more than I did yesterday.
OK I’m going to go whimper whilst I eat my lunch… If only I can bring the spoon to my mouth. I may have to eat it out the bowl with my FACE.

This week alone, K’s been gymming (after not exercising in years) AND following my paleo diet and she says she’s feeling ‘lighter’ – not necessarily weight-wise, but in terms of not being weighed down by stodgy carbs and sugar.

For my part, I’ve been slowing getting back into exercise too. I lapsed on my Jillian workouts for a few months and now I’m starting to get active again slowly. I’m sure you’ve seen those ’30 day’ challenges online, so I’ve printed out a few and stuck them on my lounge wall to encourage me to do them every day. Today my thighs were so sprained from squats that I thought my muscles might burst right through my skin and splatter over my colleagues.

These are the two I’m using:

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It’s an easy, manageable way to get back into it and I do love a challenge so it works for me. If you like the idea of this kind of workout, use these templates or Google your own. There are tons of different ones – arm workouts, leg workouts, abs, etc. Obviously you need to keep it up after 30 days, but it’s a great way to transition into more strenuous workouts – well I think so anyway.

Tonight we had the most amazing paleo Thai chicken curry with cauli rice. It’s super healthy thanks to the coconut milk (homemade, so zero additives) and truck-load of green veggies we added. Meals like this really make you feel like you’re not missing a thing.

And tomorrow is FRIDAY! The weekend is going to be our first paleo hurdle together: Saturday night we’re going to a show that I’m so, so excited about I might just BURST… but it includes a 3-course set meal. Luckily for me, I’m there for the star of the show – my most favourite drag performer, Cathy Specific – and I could DIE DIE DIE I’m so excited!! I actually feel like instead of my thighs, my stomach might burst all over this screen and splatter you all with butterflies. So I’m hardly concerned about the dishes but I know it’s going to be a challenge for K and it’s going to be exciting to see how we navigate it together.

Okay OMG I’ve gotta go. I need to start thinking about what I’m going to WEAR!

Day 72: Practicing portion control

With 18 days to go on my 90-day challenge and 28 days on my personal 100-day challenge, I’m turning my focus now to troubleshooting the elements I covered last week  – all the issues contributing to my bloating. I feel that the discomfort is my own doing and that I have to power to change this.

Here’s what I’m doing:

  • Getting back into exercise. It’s been about a month and today I picked up my dumbbells again. I can’t believe how much muscle strength one loses in a few short weeks. I think the exercise – apart from all the amazing health benefits – is also the best thing for constipation (still a frequent problem).

funny-exercise-on-road

  • Practicing portion control. Not my strong suit, but I’m working on it. K joked that I can have ‘lots of small portions’… but I’m not sure that’s the same thing 😉
  • Cutting back on bloating food. Okay okay, we all know I mean bananas. I’ve made a rule that I can only eat 2 a day – one after lunch (as ‘dessert’) and one as a snack when I get home from work. Honey and yogurt can be my sweet fixes.
Can totes identify

Can totes identify

  • Slowly switching supplements for real food. Now that my diet is expanding, I’m relying less on supplements and more on my food. Fibre is still a big problem: I’m terrified of it because it can aggravate a flare, but too little is not good either. I want to find something I can eat that’ll fill the gap. All suggestions welcome! Also, bear in mind that if a damaged gut can’t absorb nutrients from food, it won’t absorb them from supplements either.

This week’s new food: Broccoli

Tonight I introduced broccoli. Yes, I made an intentional ‘error’ and ate baby gem squash last night and today for lunch, and then introduced broccoli tonight, without waiting for 3 days. This is the first time I haven’t followed the 3-day rule, and I do seem to be okay but my results will be skewed if I react to either of those foods.

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K’s been nervous for me to try broccoli because she thinks I’ll definitely react to it and she’s the one who has to share a bedroom with me 😛 I’ll let you know how it goes…

 

Day 24: Things get fishy

Tonight I baked some fish for dinner – the first time I’ve eaten fish on this diet. I quite enjoy fish when I eat it at a restaurant, but I really need to smother it in spices when I make it at home.

Tonight, it was hake with just salt and pepper, and I actually really enjoyed it. Plus the mashed avo really just finished it off perfectly. I realise that as much as meat is legal on SCD, it’s not good to overdo the red meat. I won’t have a juicy steak more than once a week, and the rest of the time it’s chicken, mini steaks or ostrich.

Eat-Fish-at-Least-Once-a-WeekI had avo at lunch and dinner today, and I don’t seem to be feeling any ill-effects which is awesome. BMs are still really erratic, and mostly I’m just looking forward to some predictability and a little less of a struggle.

I’m also making a concerted effort to eat fewer bananas, so today I’ve only had 6 small ones (which is progress for me!). I even chopped some up and froze them to remove the immediate temptation.

I’ve also decided that I’ll phase in mushrooms next (though I hear they can be hard on the gut), followed by garlic and tomato. Then maybe cilantro. This is such an exciting phase!

How my exercise is going

I’m still doing Jillian Michael’s Body Revolution and I love it. More to the point, I love Jillian! Completely coincidentally (or maybe not, since Jillian barks out of my TV every evening), K decided she wanted to start watching The Biggest Loser. It comes on TV here but we’ve never watched it, so we downloaded a few seasons.

Well, I’m now more in love with Jillian than ever, and it really buoys me up for my workouts every day. While I’m in good health, I’m really going to make the most of these high-intensity workouts. If I hit another flare (though I’m thinking positively and not anticipating one), I’ll tone it down.

The incredible hotness that is Jillian Michaels. How can you *not* want to work out with this woman?!

The incredible hotness that is Jillian Michaels. How can you *not* want to work out with this woman?!

Besides my BMs, I’m feeling good, experiencing very little bloating, and I’m feeling clear-headed. My energy levels also seem to be improving and I’m finding the workouts slightly easier, so I’m really feeling positive. I found this quote today and I love it. I think it’s really worth remembering, every day.

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How to increase energy levels on SCD

I’ve been thinking a lot about my energy levels on SCD. Obviously during intro, I experienced a major dearth of energy and could easily have spent the three days lying on my couch in a puddle of drool. But now, almost three weeks in, I can’t deny that my energy levels aren’t what they were. Turns out, this is totally normal and to be expected with SCD.

It’s not something I’m actively aware of all the time. I don’t have any trouble (or any more trouble than usual) getting out of bed, and all my daily tasks are carried out just as before. But it’s when I exercise – particularly when I pick up my dumbbells – that I really feel the difference.

Pretty much what happens when I try to lift my exercise ball

Oh exercise ball, you do look so comfy…

During my research, I came across an SCD Wiki (yes, they exist!) called The SCD Athlete. I’m by no means an athlete – I’m just a girl who likes to work out with Jillian Michaels – but that’s exactly the point. If athletes can find sufficient energy resources on SCD to train and compete professionally, then I should definitely be able to.

The one thing that immediately stood out for me was this:

“Give the digestive tract first priority. You will get there. Some will feel their old energy or even more energy as early as in six months. For others, it may take longer, perhaps a year; however, sooner or later, your old zing will return.”

Okay, so I guess 18 days is a bit too soon to be expecting miracles, and I feel reassured by this information. The writer also added, “Elaine counselled that exercise should be limited to walking and to avoid strenuous exercise in the early months.”

Oh. Oops. Well, I am not in an active flare and I feel completely healthy. Moreover, my blood work last week showed zero inflammation, so I’m definitely in remission. BUT if you’re still bleeding, experiencing diarrhoea, anaemia, dehydration – basically, if you’re still in a flare and aren’t feeling 110% fighting fit – cut out the exercise or limit it to gentle walks only. Your number one priority is to heal your gut, and remember that if you exercise too vigorously at this stage, your body will have to use all its resources to heal your muscles, which really deprives your gut of the attention it needs.

So how can you increase your energy levels right now?

Boosting your energy levels naturally starts with knowing exactly which foods we get our energy from – and which we can safely eat on SCD. Who wants to lie around like a listless slug for six months? Not me, that’s for sure. We know that we get our energy from carbs, but that many carbs are not allowed on this diet. After all, it’s not called specific carbohydrate diet for nothing!

Listless Slug, the pug

Pug also feels like a listless slug. Perhaps he’s also on SCD

Types of carbohydrates

Before SCD, what did you do when you wanted a quick energy boost? You probably reached for a sandwich or heated up some leftover pasta. Most people are used to consuming these complex starchy carbohydrates – the most well-known carbs, which include grains like rice, pasta, flour and bread (most of these are highly refined), certain fruit and veg like bananas, winter squash, carrots, and pumpkin, and legumes, lentils and peanuts.

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When we switch to an SCD lifestyle, we cut out the grains and consume only the fruit and veg in this category. We also mainly eat simple carbohydrates, such as honey, fruit and fruit juice. Sugar is also a simple carbohydrate, but it is not advocated on SCD, as it can fuel the growth of bad bacteria and fungi like candida, which is what’s causing serious problems for many of us.

The third group of carbohydrates is complex fibrous carbohydrates, which are extremely healthy and an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients, but can cause a lot of problems for people with digestive diseases. Yup, many of us (myself included) hear sirens anytime the word ‘fibre’ is mentioned.

While fibrous carbs can be added at later stages of the diet, they are not recommended in the beginning due to the difficulty in digesting them, and the fact that they can irritate the gut. It’s also advisable to eat them with caution when you’re in a flare. They include eggplant, artichoke, nuts and nut butters, bran, broccoli and raspberries. On SCD, it’s recommended that you introduce some of these (like nuts and nut butters) only after at least three months on the diet.

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5-Minute science class: The chemical structure of carbohydrates

Now, to make matters even more confusing, carbohydrates can also be classified by their chemical structure. Here, I’m going to let the SCDLifestyle.com guys explain:

“The diet’s guidelines are based on the fact that not everyone’s digestive tract has evolved to optimally digest complex carbohydrates and other man-made food products like sugar.

The main principle of the diet is that carbohydrates are classified by their chemical structure; they are monosaccharide, disaccharide, or polysaccharide. On the diet, only monosaccharide carbohydrates are allowed to be eaten, as all others require extra digestion steps to break the chemical bonds down to monosaccharide carbohydrates.”

PHEW! Did you catch all that?

Basically, on SCD, what we’re left with is a diet of some complex carbs, many simple carbs, and legal fibrous carbs to boost our energy levels, all of which are monosaccharides.

Carbs

So which of the legal carbs should we use to improve our energy levels?

Since carbs are where we get our energy from, any of the legal carbs will give you a boost when you need it. Bananas, honey and fruit are a good bet for a quick yet sustained energy lift. Bananas are especially beneficial before exercising.

Essentially, if you feel that your energy levels are flagging on this diet, try to add as many legal carbohydrates to your diet as you can comfortably manage, as you work through the phases. As with every other type of food, phase them in one at a time.

In an earlier blog post, I mentioned that not everyone does well with fruit. It can cause bloating and discomfort, or even worsen your symptoms. But because everybody’s reactions are different, you might be fine with fruit – but struggle with carrots, for example.

Delicious AND legal carb boost! Devour a tasty bowl of butternut or pumpkin, flavoured with honey and SCD-legal spices.

Delicious AND legal carb boost! Devour a tasty bowl of butternut or pumpkin, flavoured with honey and SCD-legal spices.

Does your body prefer fruit or veg?

I’ve just discovered SCDKat.com, a great blog all about the author’s experiences on the SCD. She’s a real veteran, having been on the diet since 2008! Kat says that she can’t tolerate carrots and starchy veg, but fares well on fruit and honey. Check out her post about gaining weight and increasing energy on SCD.

What it boils down to is finding the carbs that agree with you, and eating more of them. For me, at the moment, I’m eating lots of starchy veg and bananas, as I’m still in the early phases. I seem to be fine on starchy veg, though bananas sometimes cause bloating.

Of course, try to make your meals as balanced as possible – protein and fat are just as important to healing, although fat is limited in these early stages as it can be hard to digest.

And don’t fret about your energy levels. They WILL return to normal, but you have to give yourself time to heal.

If you haven't checked out hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com, you're missing out on brilliant comic blog AND a great carb distraction :-)

If you haven’t checked out hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com, you’re missing out on brilliant comic blog AND a great carb distraction 🙂

Day 9: I started exercising again. Here’s how THAT went

I didn’t work out last week due to intro – I felt I just didn’t have the strength. And thanks to the intensity of the workouts I do, I often feel like I might puke afterwards. I definitely didn’t think I could handle that on top of the nausea I already felt!

Oh Jillian, how I missed you.

Since about May last year, I’ve been doing the Jillian Michaels DVDs. I love the exercises, I love the intensity, and I love Jillian. I think that has a lot to do with how hot she is. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to work out with this every day:

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She doesn’t often work out in heels, but when she does, it’s awesome 😉 Okay I’m kidding… but wouldn’t that be amazeballs?

She’s also hugely motivating – I really agree with so many of the things she says, like how we’re much stronger than we think we are, and how we can do anything we set our minds to. I really need to be reminded of that every now and then. Here are two of my favourite Jillian quotes:

Quotation-Jillian-Michaels-motivation-motivational-inspirational-effort-day-change-inspiration-Meetville-Quotes-98902 Transformation-isnt-a-future1

I’ve done the whole of Ripped in 30, 30 Day Shred, Yoga Meltdown and 6 Week 6-pack. I’ve also attempted Extreme Shed and Shred but that was just crazy!

A few weeks ago I started Body Revolution, which is supposed to be her most intense workout series yet, and spans 3 months. During the first week, you can boost your weight-loss/toning by doing the 30-minute workout video PLUS the 30-minute cardio video… which I did. I had THAT much energy.

How I felt working out on SCD

Today… not so much. It’s been 10 days which is a fairly long hiatus from exercise, but I’m pretty fit and I’ve taken breaks before (though not usually this long), and never found it so hard to get back into it. I felt much weaker today, and struggled to do things I usually find manageable, like planks and lifting dumbbells. I think I need to eat more – even if it’s just more of what I am eating. I think my body is really feeling the effects of a total carb black-out and it still needs a bit of time to adjust.

But I’ll never give up on the JM workouts – I just love her too much 😉 And also, there are some other benefits besides the eye candy (I know – who knew?!).

Why exercise is good for UC

Apart from all the obvious advantages we know about exercise – helping to stave off dire diseases, keeping our weight in check, boosting brain function, improving circulation and every other good thing that exists for the human body – it also really, really helps the gut.

I immediately felt things shifting and working inside my belly, and after the workout, I had a fairly normal BM – my second of the day which makes me REALLY happy. No more constipation!

If you’re having a flare, it’s a really bad idea to work out vigorously – or even at all in some instances. Be guided by your doctor.

I didn’t know this during my first flares, and pushed through relentlessly, which probably made things so much worse. I don’t know how I did it, but I was defiant. The only days I didn’t work out were the few days when my feet were so sore I could barely walk . Do any of you get sore feet during a flare?

Anyway, light exercise is always recommended, and the guys at SCDLifestyle.com say that it actually aids in the healing process. So go for walks or bike rides, or whatever else you enjoy. I think even a bit of Jillian is okay – I certainly don’t want to give it up. But do bear in mind that super vigorous exercise is never really recommended for UC patients. Here’s why, explained by Jordan and Steve at SCDLifestyle.com:

“Strenuous exercise (sprinting, performing work where you are so out of breath you can’t talk) breaks down your muscle fibers at a micro level and causes inflammation requiring the body to repair these muscle fibers and clear out the inflammation to make them bigger and stronger. In the SCD
diet we are trying very hard to reduce inflammation throughout the entire body, so creating excess inflammation can be counterproductive. Also if your body is busy shuttling nutrients to your muscles to repair them it will not be working on repairing your intestinal injuries.”

So there you have it. Don’t kick the exercise, but maybe take it down a notch. I might have to, lest I undo all this good work. I know my limits but I push through them anyway. Everything in excess with me – another of my challenges. And getting stuck in ruts. I’m STILL doing mostly intro food which means I MUST introduce a new veg tomorrow.

Speaking of challenges, it’s been 9 days on this diet – which also means 9 days without any booze, coffee, juice, sugar – everything! Where are you on the diet? Give yourself a damn good pat on the back. Freaking rockstar!

To congratulate you on how well you’ve done, here’s a little gift from me: A few more Jillian pics 😛 And if you’re not a Jillian Michaels fan… go google some pics of Ryan Gosling 😉

JillianMichaels jillian-michaels jillian-michaels-30-day-shred-workout jillian-michaels-68378