A FRESH PERSPECTIVE

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On Saturday, January 13th at 8:07AM, I received the following emergency alert notification on my iPhone: "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."

Jordan and I had flown to Oahu for the weekend. We were staying in an AirBnb on the North Shore and had hitchhiked to Foodland to grab some breakfast before heading to the beach. 

It was an absolutely gorgeous day – 80 degrees and sunny. We were so stoked to go to Banzai Pipeline to watch some of the biggest swells of the year.

But then, for 38 minutes, everything changed.

For the next half an hour, life ensued exactly as you'd expect it would after being told that you were the target of a ballistic missile – confusion, fear, and chaos.

I feel like this is something that's kinda overlooked by people who weren't in Hawaii on that day. 

We all thought we were going to die. 

Like yes, we know now that it was a false alarm, but for those 38 minutes, we believed we were living out our last moments on this earth.

I've tried writing this blog post dozens of times, and rather than focusing on the fear, the phone calls I had to make, or having to take shelter in the basement of Foodland, I've decided to share what I learned from this experience instead – the silver linings.

I've always been a firm believer that the best things in life come from the worst things, and this situation was no different. Although what I experienced was pretty scary, I learned so much about myself and gained a totally new perspective on the world around me.

When you're warned that a ballistic missile is headed for Hawaii, you have about 20 minutes until it detonates.

Obviously, a lot of thoughts were running through my head.

But looking back, it warms my heart to know that all I could think about was how grateful I was for my family, my favorite sports memories, getting to visit Hawaii, and the 20 years of life I had the privilege to live.

During those moments, I felt a breathtaking amount of love and gratitude in my heart and soul. I was also incredibly sad, not because of the fear I felt, but because I realized that the world is so beautiful and life is so short.

The things I didn't/wouldn't get the chance to do never crossed my mind, and I didn't have any major regrets. I think that's a testament to mindset of gratitude I've focused on cultivating.

When you're so grateful for the opportunities and the things you do have, you don't spend time dwelling on the negatives or what might've been – you're too overwhelmed by your blessings.

Since reflecting on this whole experience, I've realized that there's not too much out there that can scare me anymore. For 38 minutes, I believed I was going to die, and I reached a point where I took a deep breath and faced it.

If I can overcome the fear of what appeared to be an imminent death, why should anything else ever stop me?

I'm not really concerned with what others think of me anymore. This beautiful life is so short! When you're in a life-or-death situation, you realize how much truth clichés really hold: 

Do what makes YOU happy, do what works for YOU, pave your own path, but LOVE – love things with your whole heart. Help others as often as you can.

Just love and love and love.
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NOT PROUD OF IT | HAWAII PREP DAY 28

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I'm finally getting around to writing this blog post. I've had it as a "to-do" on my schedule for the past 4 days, but things have been crazy – finishing finals, house/dog sitting, and errands on errands on errands.

I digress.

Last Saturday, my entire extended family celebrated what we call "Faux Christmas" and well, I'm not too proud of what went down.

Essentially, tracking my macros went out the window & I ate whatever I wanted.

I woke up the next morning 2.8 pounds heavier, and I kinda freaked out.

Okay, I really freaked out.

My fat loss had started to slow considerably, and in my mind, getting rid of those 2.8 pounds was going to set back my progress by weeks.

I know it's pretty much impossible to gain that much fat overnight, but when you have diet-brain, clear thinking usually goes out the window.

Thankfully, I had my coach to remind me: "It's not fat gain. It's just extra water/glycogen stored as you ate and drank more. Just get back to what you were doing and it will disappear."

Getting back into things after falling off the wagon a bit is probably one of the hardest things during a cut. After eating some really good food, you just crave more of it.

I'm not going to lie, I felt pretty awful the following morning – a combination of guilt/shame, for sure. When you're feeling bad like that, it can be hard to drag your ass to the gym.

But you've just gotta do it. For me, I had to take my emotions out of the equation and focus on the process itself. So, I did my cardio, I stuck to my macros, and I drank a ton of water.

By the next morning, I was still holding onto some of that extra weight, but I followed my coach's advice.

The morning after that, though? One of my lowest weigh-ins during this cut. And ever since, I've been hitting new low weigh-ins every day. If I had to guess, I'd say that my overindulgence rebooted my metabolism and helped me break my weight-loss plateau, similar to the effects of carb-cycling.

SO, although I took a step back, it actually allowed me to take 5 big steps forward.

That ^ all happened last weekend (like December 16) so I've made even more progress since then. In my 4 weeks of prep, I've lost 12.6 pounds. It's so rewarding because I've hit a point where others are able to physically see my progress, too.

I only have 4 more days of prep, and then I will be adjusting my macros to maintenance-level for whatever weight I'm at. I'm definitely not going to be bringing my food scale/tracking my foods while in Hawaii, but I will make a conscious effort to estimate macros & not go crazy!

Keep your eye out for another post (soon!!) that will have all of my progress photos throughout this prep. Anyways, I'm off to hit legs & do cardio.

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!
xx.
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HITTING MY STRIDE | HAWAII PREP DAY 20

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I can't believe I've been cutting for 20 DAYS. That seems so wild – probably because I haven't taken a cut this seriously in a hot sec. 

In the past, I've had so much more flexibility with my cuts because I wasn't prepping for anything in particular. I didn't have a specific event to work towards, and I didn't have a strict timeline. 

If I wanted a cheat meal, I'd have one. I'd still make progress, albeit slowly, simply because my prep wasn't nearly as regimented.

BUT, as of lately, I've honestly been kicking ass. I feel like I've caught my second wind. I don't feel so tired/crabby all the time, and I'm just ready to knock out these last 13 days of prep.

*Let's see if I'm still saying that next week when my macros get cut AGAIN. Stay tuned.

I've had a really organized schedule these past few weeks, which makes it SO easy to get a lot of shit done and stay on track. I'm the busiest I've ever been, but I'm having so much fun even though it's a little crazy sometimes.

(Big shouts to my roommate for not smacking me every time I get home & announce, "Honestly, Leah, I'M THRIVING.")

I've had a pretty consistent daily routine: wake up, caffeinate, lift & cardio, FOOD, errands/homework, more FOOD, work, FOOD, watch a Netflix/Hallmark Christmas movie (I'm obsessed), and sleep.

Good stuff.

If I'm being real though, I've been dealing with a big mental barrier this week: water retention/bloating. 

I've definitely been eating some sodium-heavy foods (I've been on a pickle kick lately) and it's that time of the month...which makes for an AWESOME combo.

I just remind myself that the water retention will only last a few days, and I'm still making progress even though I can't exactly see it right now. 

In the meantime, I've been trying to limit my sodium intake and increase my water intake. It's a little paradoxical, but drinking more actually helps you flush out excess water.

I've also stopped stepping on the scale for a few days, because when you're holding onto excess water weight, the numbers can play mind games with you.

SO that's a fun little update for you guys.

I've had a lot of people ask me for my savory waffle recipe & my low-carb flatbread recipes (BBQ chicken, breakfast pizza, and buffalo chicken) so I'll make sure to write up a post on those sometime next week. :-)

Next week will be fun...a few more finals, and then it's eyebrow/hair/nail appointments with my sister & my best friend. It's nice to reward yourself during prep in ways that don't involve food, lol.

That's all for now...I just finished doing the most massive load of laundry in my apartment's creepy American Horror Story-esque basement SO I'll be spending the next 3 days folding it all!

xx.
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CARDIO & CRAVINGS | HAWAII PREP DAY 15

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Just over 2 weeks into prep, and my abs finally decided to make an appearance. But let's be clear: I'm not walking around like that ^ all day.

That photo was taken on an empty stomach right after I woke up. Obviously once I eat breakfast/drink water, the definition diminishes quite a bit.

BUT, still a promising start.

Because my prep is so short (I only have around 2.5 weeks left!) my scale of progress is a lot different than if this was a normal length prep.

Up until the last few days, I had been losing 0.2 pounds every day.

SO, when it starts taking 2-3 days to drop that weight, things need to get switched up so that my progress stays on pace with the time allowed.

When I was talking with my coach, I pretty much knew my macros were going to get lowered, but then he hit me with another adjustment: 6-8 deadmill sprints at the end of every workout (in addition to my steady-state cardio).

So, I've been doing the sprints HIIT style before my steady-state cardio...20 seconds of sprinting, 20 seconds rest, 20 seconds of sprinting, 20 seconds rest, etc. for a total of 8 rounds of sprints.

Absolutely killer.

But back to macros: the overall ratio stayed the same in terms of percentages from fat/carb/protein, but the grams of each were lowered in order to create a larger caloric deficit.

With the lower allowances, I have been using my macros up a little too early in the day...making for some very hungry, crabby, craving-filled nights.

I do have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to cravings, though:

Drinking a bottle of Sparkling Ice flavored water. 
The carbonation helps you feel full and minimizes hunger.

Distraction is key. 
Most cravings only last a few minutes, so if I'm craving something, I like to take my mind off of it and do something productive.

Take a nap/go to sleep. 
Most of my cravings happen later in the day or at night when I've used all of my macros for the day. Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that you have a full day of macros available tomorrow. It's not like you're never going to be able to eat again!

***

Overall, I've been pretty satisfied with the progress I've made so far. I sometimes have to remind myself that fat loss isn't just going to happen in the midsection, though. 

I feel like it's easy to get discouraged when you're not seeing abs everyday, but I've started noticing other areas where I'm making progress, and that's what keeps me motivated. 

Like for example, I've definitely noticed my face thinning out, and my back muscles are more defined. Love it.

One of the biggest obstacles this prep has definitely been the effects on my mood caused by the caloric deficit. Feeling hungry isn't fun, and most people don't understand how hard prep can be (especially during the holidays).

I'm honestly so thankful for my brother, an NPC competitor, because he understands the grind of the cutting process & really helps me through the tough days.

I don't have too much else to update you guys on...I'm very tired, hungry, and ready for breakfast in the morning, lol. I'll have to share my savory waffle recipe soon because it is THE best...

GRATITUDES:
1) My brother :-)
2) The Christmas Prince on Netflix
3) Scented candles that smell like Christmas trees

xx.

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GROCERY HAUL | HAWAII PREP DAY 12

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I went grocery shopping yesterday SO I thought I'd share what I picked up. I like driving out to Woodbury to go shopping just because my grocery stores are closer in proximity, and they are less busy than the stores in the cities – it's just a better experience overall. Big fan of the suburbs.

Anywhooo. I spent a little under $75 on groceries this week, but a lot of the things I picked up will last me awhile (like the frozen veggies & such). I try to limit my grocery expenses, so it's worth it for me to buy certain things at different stores.


CUB FOODS: ($28)

minute rice (basmati) cups

zevia cherry cola

joseph's low carb pita bread

joseph's low carb tortillas

frozen buffalo cauliflower

fat-free shredded cheddar cheese

egg beaters

light & fit greek yogurt

alkaline water


ALDI: ($20)

turkey bacon

frozen veggies

turkey kielbasa

blueberries

steakhouse marinade

mango pico de gallo

fully-cooked, ready-to-eat chicken strips

fresh boneless skinless chicken thighs


TRADER JOE'S: ($25)

frozen, chopped bell peppers

frozen, roasted potatoes w/ peppers

hi-protein veggie burgers

blueberries

fresh pineapple spears

power crunch bars

canned black beans

canned refried beans

organic romaine lettuce

organic baby spinach


There you have it :-) Obviously these aren't the only things I eat during the week because I was just re-stocking on things that I ran out of in my fridge/pantry.

I can't believe that I'm almost done with 2 weeks of prep. I plan to touch base with my coach this week and see what the game plan is for the next 2.5 weeks of prep...so I'll include that in a future post.

Also, I just want to say thank you for all the love & sweet messages I've gotten since starting Forever Undefeated. It means a lot to me, and I really hope that my posts continue to be helpful.

GRATITUDES:
1) A warm apartment/house
2) Pinterest
3) The people on the freeway that let you change lanes/merge in traffic

I'm off to do some yoga before work...Happy Thursday!!
xx.
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NATURE OF THE BEAST | HAWAII PREP DAY 9

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I've had some people on Instagram ask about my diet, so I wanted to address that & then give another little prep update because I'm only 3.5 weeks out from my trip!

Like I've said in previous posts, I follow the IIFYM diet. Basically, no foods are "off-limits," but I do have to use a food scale & the MyFitnessPal app to calculate portion sizes so that I hit my specific macros (190g carb, 143g protein, 63g fat) by the end of the day.

It's funny – my friends will see me eating buffalo chicken dip or ice cream, and they'll be like, "I thought you were cutting?"

I am, but I don't eat rice and tilapia for every meal. I would literally go insane.

I sometimes have to tweak recipes to make them more macro-friendly, but for the most part, I can still eat my favorite foods.

For example, I'm obsessed with buffalo chicken dip. Typical buffalo chicken dip recipes are loaded with cheese/ranch dressing, which doesn't quite work with my macro allowance, so I had to switch it up.

I'll shred some cooked chicken breast, add a tablespoon of Kraft Reduced Fat Mayo with Olive Oil (which only has 5g of fat per serving), and mix in some Frank's RedHot Buffalo Sauce. Then, I just pop it in the microwave for around 2 minutes. I'll usually eat it with multi-grain tortilla chips, or I'll make a wrap with Flatout Light Flatbread. YUM.

As for ice cream, I had a little Dairy Queen on my birthday because I was able to fit it into my macros. I usually don't eat dairy, but every now & then is okay!

My family gave me a little shit for sticking to my diet on my birthday, but they understood that it's just something I had to do because of the timing of my trip.

If my prep wasn't so short, I might've allowed myself a little cheat day, but I just don't have that kind of flexibility. There's no reason to complain – that's just the nature of the beast.

When you're cutting, you have to make some sacrifices. And in the grand scheme of things, skipping out on cake & a huge dinner on my birthday is NOT the end of the world.

***

These last few weeks before the trip are going to be an absolute grind. With work, finals, off-season volleyball workouts, and prep, my hands are FULL. I literally had to plan a manicure with one of my friends 3 weeks in advance.

I've always been pretty good with time management, but this particular situation has forced me to take my prioritizing to a whole new level. So, as much as the craziness can suck sometimes, it really does make you better when you're operating outside of your comfort zone.

And I'm not gonna lie, I'm actually having some fun with this. I feel more purposeful and driven than I have in a HOT minute.

(I've been forgetting to put my little gratitudes for the day at the end of my posts, oops...)

1) My planner.
2) Spotify Premium (ads drives me nuts!!)
3) Christian Guzman & his YouTube channel

Happy Monday loves!! xx.

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MINOR ADJUSTMENTS | HAWAII PREP DAY 6

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It is currently day six of my mini-cut for Hawaii, and I wanted to share a few minor adjustments I've made throughout the week. It's pretty easy for me to recognize things that obviously need to be changed early in a cut just because I know my body pretty well.

BUT, if you're new to prep, I would recommend being patient and sticking with things for a few weeks before making adjustments.

In my early experiences, it was sometimes hard to tell if I was making progress – just give it time.

Anyways, nothing too major here, but I did rearrange a few of the exercises in my current split because certain circuits were super easy while others were insanely difficult.

I basically just re-organized the circuits so that each one had a compound movement or "bigger" lift combined with two accessory lifts. Now, instead of a circuit either wearing me out or being a total breeze, there's a consistent level of difficulty.

Another switch has to do with my cardio.

I wasn't expecting my legs to lean out so quickly from running (which I've been doing for a few weeks before my cut "officially" started), so I've switched to doing 20-30 minutes of steady-state cardio on the treadmill (10.0 incline, 3.5 pace) instead. This allows me to maintain my muscle mass, which is always a huge priority during a cut.

I can already tell that my macros are perfect, so those won't change unless I hit a plateau/get closer to my trip.

I've been losing about 0.2 pounds a day, which works out to approximately 1.5 pounds a week: totally healthy and manageable.

I've been really pleased with my progress already, especially with the amount of carbs I'm able to eat every day. In my previous cuts, I've always started with lower carbs, so it's been really nice having those extra macros to work with.

One thing I need to be better at is eating my carbs consistently throughout the day, instead of saving them for lunch or dinner.

On days when I've had really high-protein, low-carb breakfasts, I start to get a little cranky/emotional in the afternoon, so as you can imagine, that has been SUPER fun :-)

Some mood swings are expected during a cut, but I think I can limit them a bit by spreading out my carbs more evenly throughout the day.

SO, that's a quick little update. I'm off to do homework (& maybe some extra cardio because I need to work-off some extra caffeine in my system).

Friday nights are an absolute blast during prep, if you guys couldn't tell.

It's fine. I'm almost out of macros for the day and it's only like 8PM but it's fine.

Byeee.
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BOOK THE TICKET, BUY THE BIKINI...

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Like I mentioned in this post, I will be living (and working) on the Big Island of Hawaii for 3 weeks this December/January. It still seems crazy, even as I'm writing this! I'm traveling with one of my best friends, Jordan, and we are SO STOKED.

I know a lot of people are wondering how I'm able to pursue an opportunity like this as a broke-ass college student, so I wanted to share a little bit about the extensive planning behind this trip and the experience itself.

First things first, I found our host through an organization called WWOOF, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. 

Without going into too much detail, WWOOF is a "unique, educational organic farming and cultural exchange program that allows participants to gain practical and sustainable agriculture experience while meeting and forming relationships with people from around the world."

In exchange for work, WWOOFers receive housing and food. 

Pretty sweet deal if you ask me. But you're probably thinking, "Um, farming?"

Kinda.

Our host (AKA Mama Luscious) runs a small business that sells organic coffee and other gourmet products made from fresh ingredients grown on her farm.

While most of our "farming" tasks include harvesting coffee and other exotic fruits, a main reason Mama Luscious welcomed us to her farm was because of our experience in marketing and communications – so a lot of our work will consist of managing the website, advertising, social media, etc.

We will work 5 days a week, from 8AM until 1PM, leaving lots of time to explore the island. We got really lucky with our accommodations, too. Jordan and I will share our own bedroom and bathroom. And as for food, Mama Luscious is a gourmet chef. Need I say more?

SO, that leaves one sole expense. Airfare. And I don't know if you guys are familiar with the cost of airfare to Hawaii, but it isn't the cheapest thing in the world.

Luckily, my college was offering Environmental Stewardship grants last year. 

I applied and was awarded a modest amount of funds to assist with the cost of my airfare IF I was able to meet with a faculty advisor and turn the experience into an internship for class credit. So obviously, done & done.

It sounds easy enough, right? But what people don't realize is how stressful, time-consuming, and tedious planning for this trip has been. 

They just think it's like "oh, you're vacationing in Hawaii for 3 weeks," you know?

But in reality, this trip has been in the works for almost a year now. There were months between applying for the grant and finding out if my proposal had been accepted.

I had to find a faculty member to serve as my advisor. I had to construct learning goals and internship guidelines. I had meeting after meeting after meeting with faculty members on campus.

I had to find a host farm that had availability for the exact travel dates Jordan and I had coordinated. I had to enlist the help of a travel agent to help us find the cheapest airfare possible.

The list goes on and on.

I'm definitely not complaining – I knew it wasn't going to be an easy process, and I just hoped it would all be worth it in the end. 

I just want to emphasize that this is not a vacation paid for by my parents, and I think it's easy to make assumptions when all you might see are Instagram pictures, you know?

^ Transparency, what's up.

Going to Hawaii has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, so this opportunity is almost unbelievable.

I honestly had no idea that this was a dream I'd be able to fulfill as a college student. But, once I realized that there were so many resources (grants/scholarships/etc) available, I just took advantage of it.

If I've learned anything through this process, it's that your college wants you to pursue opportunities and will go out of their way to help you make it happen – you just need to find the right people.

Trust me, there were definitely nights where I'd call my mom in tears because it seemed like the trip wasn't going to work after all of the planning I had done.

There were moments where I wanted to just throw in the towel because it was getting too stressful – this honestly almost happened the week before everything was finalized and we booked our airfare.

Ah, life. It's like that quote, "The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed." Real shit right there.

Once everything got finalized last week, I FINALLY felt like I could take a deep breath and focus on the more fun side of the trip.

Now, instead of freaking out about grant money, advisor meetings, and plane tickets, I can worry about last-minute shopping for warm-climate clothes and figuring out how I'm going to fit everything in my suitcase.

I usually don't post on Wednesdays, but I thought I'd share this because I've been getting a lot of questions about it! 

That's all for now. xx.
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THE CUT BEGINS | HAWAII PREP WK 1

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Today is the first day of my mini-cut for my trip to Hawaii! More details on the actual trip coming soon – BUT essentially I will be living and working on the Big Island of Hawaii for 3 weeks in December/January. Exciting stuff!

I have to say, starting a cut during the winter is really odd. Winter has always been my bulking season, and my cutting season is typically in the spring. So this is WEIRD. 

Even weirder? I actually enjoy cutting season. I like having the routine and set macros to follow. It's not the easiest process in the world, but seeing progress is so rewarding and makes it all worth it.

Over the past 4 years, I've learned a LOT through trial and error, and I wanted to share a few things I've found that are absolutely crucial for me to have a successful cut.

1) HYDRATION: I'LL DRINK TO THAT

I try to drink a gallon of water a day. Water plays a huge role in bodily functions, including metabolism. When the body is dehydrated, performance suffers dramatically and the ability to utilize fat as fuel is restricted. 

Drinking a gallon of water throughout the course of the day ensures that my body is properly hydrated and able to perform efficiently.

2) HITTING MACROS

Following a set ratio of macronutrients is a no-brainer for me during prep. For this cut, I've been working with Lucas Owens, a coach I found through Instagram (@lucasowensfitness).

Lucas helped me calculate my macros and will continue to be a great resource for me as I progress through this prep. I love his philosophy, and he has a proven track record with his clients.

For those of you who are curious, my macros are currently set at 190g carb, 143g protein, and 63g fat. Macronutrient goals are unique to the individual. It's not a "one-size-fits-all" type of thing. These macros were calculated specifically for my body type/activity level/goals/etc.

Reminder: Don't forget about hitting your micronutrients as well.

3) CARDIO

I like to joke that cardio is awful, but in reality, it's never as bad as you think it'll be. In fact, I've really been enjoying my cardio lately. 

I'm kinda bummed because neither of the gyms I go to right now has a stair master and usually that's my go-to BUT we're making it work.

After my lift, I'll run an 8-minute (or under) mile OR I'll speed-walk at an incline for 20-30 minutes. I've been loving the higher-intensity mile run versus the slower cardio because it's super efficient.

4) LIFTING WITH INTENTION

When in a caloric deficit, your energy levels are going to be depleted. It's critical that you use your energy for lifts and exercises that are relevant. 

Be intentional with how you're using your energy and focus on specific lifts that target areas of your body (legs/back/etc) that align with your aesthetic goals.

5) Zzz...

There is definitely a time and place for grinding it out and staying up late/waking up early/etc., but cutting season is not one of them. Sleep is one of the most important factors for a successful prep. I aim for 8+ hours a night.

When you're not well rested, your brain's reward center and hunger/fullness hormones go haywire – causing major food cravings. The stress hormone, cortisol, also spikes and signals your body to conserve energy (and hold onto fat). 

Sleep deprivation slows your metabolism and inhibits your body's ability to process insulin – a hormone needed to convert food to energy. When your body isn't responding properly to insulin, it has trouble processing fats from your bloodstream, so it ends up storing them.

Researchers found that when dieters cut back on sleep over a 2-week period, the amount of fat loss dropped by 55%, even though their calories stayed the same. Not only were they hungrier and less satisfied after meals, their energy was zapped as well. (source)

Aside from all of the science-y stuff, I personally prefer waking up later during a cut because I have more macros to work with during a shorter period of time.

This post isn't an exhaustive list of all the things I focus on during prep, but these are definitely my top five. I'm excited to share my progress during the next 4-5 weeks!

ALSO: I loved sharing my gratitudes last week, and I think I'm going to start adding them to the end of each post.

1) Reconnecting with old friends.
2) The song Home for Christmas by R. Kelly.
3) The opportunity to work & earn money.

Happy Sunday! xx.

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