Nutrition & Dieting/Weight loss issues

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Question
Hips/Stomach issue
Hips/Stomach issue  
QUESTION: I know you're not a therapist so I apologize beforehand if this sounds pathetic and a waste of your time. I just really could use some professional advice.

To start off, I'm 18 years old, 5'9", and weigh 134 pounds at the moment. I was always the "skinny girl" growing up and in school and whatnot, but I guess my body started to ditch my fast metabolism because the weight seems to be piling on. I started modeling in March of this year and I think that's when my weight issues formally started. At my agency, we have to be within certain measurements (maximum of a 26 inch waist and 36 inch hips) to do runway, in which that is what I want to do. My problem is my hips are 38 inches, 37.5 on a good day. The modeling is an issue in itself but also, I'm a firm believer in if you don't like something about yourself, change it, and I personally wish I had a flatter stomach, thinner hips, and a wider thigh gap. To achieve my measurement requirement for modeling and also my own personal goal of being thinner, I started the Weight Watchers meal plan, in which I've been doing that for around 2 or 3 months now. I restricted myself to only eating a maximum of 1200 calories a day, using the MyFitnessPal app to track my calories. I got a YMCA gym membership and tried running but with my asthma, it's very hard for me to run for more than a few minutes without feeling like I'm about to pass out - (side note: I'm not sure if me tiring out so quickly is related more to my asthma or just me being out of shape, maybe both). I also tried doing little things everyday such as 100 sit-ups, lifting dumbbells, etc since I can't seem to do cardio without feeling like I'm dying. Because of that, I feel like me eating right isn't making me lose weight since I'm not really exercising to balance it out. But today, I really noticed how big my thighs are and the way my stomach folds when I sit down. As dramatic as it seems, I feel like I look like I weigh 300 pounds. I realize that these are self esteem issues I have within myself. I've always weighed around 100-125 pounds, this is the first time I've been in the 130s, Lord knows what I'll do if I end up in the 140s! I know that the weight number doesn't really matter, but it does to me. Even my family members have noticed my weight gain and it's hard to hear someone question why you're gaining weight when you've in actuality been trying to lose weight. I need to know what I'm doing wrong, how I can weigh less, lose inches in my hips, why my stomach is still flabby after endless amount of sit-ups, if Weight Watchers is for me or not, and if I'm just being crazy self-concious and paranoid . Thank you!

ANSWER: Jasmine,
Don't worry, your concerns are neither pathetic or a waste of time.
Here is the thing, I am going to tell you upfront that this response is going to be direct and honest, possibly blunt, I won't apologize, I just ask that you read and consider everything. I have very limited knowledge about modeling, so I won't say I understand, however I respect your concerns.

What I do know of modeling is that it is very concerned with body image, maybe rightfully so. There is nothing wrong with striving to be fit and healthy. The key words are FIT and HEALTHY. I'm actually writing a nutrition e book and just finished a section I titled SKINNY IS NOT A SHAPE. It discusses that skinny should never be something to strive for. Women are supposed to have a shape and curves. Women wear skinny jeans because of makes their shape look good, not because they just happen to be thin. But I'm getting way way off subject here and don't want to sound like I'm preaching.

By looking at your picture you are already very lean. Taking another inch off your hips would be considerable since you are already thin. The way I see it is you could benefit much more from toning than losing. There is no reason you can't tone your mid section to get more definition which translates to a better body shape.

The attitude of wanting to change what's wrong is fine, just ask yourself this, if you weren't modeling, would you have any issues with your body image?

Now in regard to your thigh gap issue. I've heard a lot about this recently. The thing is its not a realistic goal. Genetically speaking very few people can achieve this. Most magazines edit photos to make the gap look wider, thus it leads people to believe this is achievable.

Now on to your eating. The reason you are likely holding on to weight or even putting on weight is because of the 1200 calories. In my practice I never recommend anyone go under 1600. The 1200 a day you are eating is likely in line with your BMR. The BMR is the amount of calories your body uses just to maintain life functions. By eating less and less your brain senses that there is a lack of energy coming in. In response it slows down the metabolism and attempts to hold on to as much fat as possible. This is a defense mechanism that can't be overcome. Furthermore at eating that few calories for too long you risk screwing up your metabolism. It may not do anything now but could set you up for issues when you're older.
It would be much better if you were eating a minimum of 1700 calories a day. This is a bare minimum based on your current weight, height, and activity level.

You also mention that your stomach is flabby even with sit ups. This is a misconception that sit ups or any ab exercise fixes this. Ad exercises simply work the abdominal muscles. There is still a layer of fat over the abdomen that is only controlled through diet and anaerobic exercise.

The reason your workouts are exhausting you is because you're working on such limited calories. If you were doing 30-45 minutes of resistance training 3 times a week and 30 minutes of cardio 4 times a week you could realistically be able to eat 1800-2000 calories and still maintain a great body shape.

You asked me if you are being overly self conscious or paranoid. With all due respect, my answer is yes. You may not like this but just keep reading, I totally get that your goal is to be a model. But I worry that the unrealistic requirements the agency and industry imposes on you is going to hurt you more in the long run.
The fact is that a lot of what these agencies want from their girls is unrealistic and the few that meet it do so based on genetics. Very few people can meet those standards.

Take this from a guy, you look beautiful and don't need to let these crazy agency requirements make you feel bad or feel inadequate.
Personally I have been involved in the film industry for almost as long as you've been alive and dealt with the same issues. As a writer or filmmaker I am fine. But myself and friends struggled with getting acting jobs because were not 6 foot and blonde and looking like a Ken doll.

If modeling is truly your passion then defiantly stick with it. Just don't allow industry BS to get you down or make you feel inadequate. You may not meet their standards at this agency, maybe never. The trick is not meeting their standards, but finding an agency who does want you. If you know who Russell Simmons is you know how successful he is. He says that the key to success in business, and modeling is a business, is to be something or offer something original. Make the industry want what you are selling as opposed to you trying to fit into what they want.

I've already rambled enough and preached enough to possibly bore you or annoy you. But I'm going to offer you one last thing to consider. Do you know anything about fitness modeling? Look up these people, Amanda Latona, Tiffany Boydston, and Nathlia Melo. All three are successful fitness models. You have the potential to do well in an industry like that if you ever wanted. Again I may be way out of line. I just thought its something that may interest you.

So I know I gave you a lot to consider and possibly pissed you off or talked about stuff you don't care about. I'm just being real with you.
Best of luck and feel free to write back anytime.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Disproportional body
Disproportional body  
QUESTION: Thank you for responding, by the way I was neither annoyed, bored, or pissed by what you had to say. I'm actually glad you were blunt, I guess it was something I needed to hear.

You said I need to "tone", what do you mean by that? When I think of people getting "toned", they're usually getting muscles, so wouldn't that make me gain more weight? But I know absolutely nothing about fitness so I'm probably off about that. But how do I get my stomach less flabby then, since you said sit-ups aren't going to help with that. Also, what exercises help with getting my thins thinner so they're not huge freaking thunder thighs.

You said, "The attitude of wanting to change what's wrong is fine, just ask yourself this, if you weren't modeling, would you have any issues with your body image?" and the answer is yes. I've had issues with my weight/look since about my sophomore year of high school (I'm a college freshman now), in which I just always thought I was about to be obese so I wouldn't eat and that turned into this big thing I'm not going to get into so I don't bore you. But I feel like me starting to model put my weight issues into overdrive. If I wasn't modeling, I would still think I was big, but I probably, actually I know, that I wouldn't do anything extreme to change it, such as using laxatives to lose weight quickly or spending a fortune on Weight Watchers.

Speaking of Weight Watchers, do you recommend me staying on it? I just don't know what I should be eating and I hate eating actually, so I like that they have really small portions for like 100 calories. But I don't want to continue doing it if it's bad for me or just doesn't work.

Pertaining to the thigh gap, I've had it before so I know I'm capable of having it, I just gained so much weight in my thighs so it's nonexistent now, but what do you think I can do to possibly help with that or am I just too far gone to get it back?

I got the 1200 calories from the MyFitnessPal app, it told me that's what I should be eating.. But I really hate eating so I don't know if I can eat 1300 calories a day, let alone 1800. You said in addition to eating 1800 calories, I should work out 4 times a week, what do you mean by "resistance training" (side note- sorry if I sound stupid, I really don't know much about fitness, the reason I'm talking to you) and what if I can't do cardio? You said I get tired because of the number of calories I eat, but is eating more the only way I can increase my stamina to do cardio?

You said that I am being overly self concious and paranoid, so does that mean if I stopped dieting and exercising, I'd be fine for what's considered "average" or "healthy". I think that another one of my problems is that I feel like I'm not the right weight, like I'm overweight for my age/height. I know a lot of tall girls my age who either weigh way less than me or they weigh about the same as me but look way thinner than me. Like I feel like my body isn't proportioned right, lol, like my weight's not evenly distributed throughout my body, it feels like all my weight goes to my stomach and hips, which makes my arms and calves look so thin. It's just weird, I've attached an image so you can see what I'm talking about, maybe I'm just crazy and see what I want to see.

Thank you for saying that I'm beautiful, it's pretty rare that I hear that so thank you. Maybe you are right about the agency and how I may not reach the requirements, but I'm still going to try and work my butt off and see what happens; maybe I'll get picked up by another agency who accepts my big hips, who knows. As for the fitness modeling, I highly, highly doubt that I could ever do that, their bodies are amazing and I'm nowhere near that, ha, but thanks. It'd be amazing to do but I don't have the confidence or the body at the moment. But who knows what'll happen in the future!

I feel like I have a ton of questions, so do you have an email you use for fitness questions like these? Or is it fine if I just keep sending my questions through this? Just don't want to bore-annoy-piss you off, ha.

Answer
Hi Jasmine,
Thank you for all of the insight. It makes my job easier. Too many people write to me and say "I want to lose weight, how?" Vague doesn't work.

Anyways here is what I see from your concerns. You are really letting your mind get the best of you. I can only judge from photos but you are far from over weight. You have this ideal set in your mind and your brain is always going to tell you you're wrong.
You're going to think I'm crazy but if you want to humor me, go on you tube and watch this clip from the film Rocky Balboa, specifically around the 1:50 mark. http://youtu.be/_Z5OookwOoY
Sure it doesn't necessarily pertain to your dilemmas, but just keep it in mind in regard to not letting others, or your own mind get the best of you and hold you back.

But to address some of your questions...
-Toning is more than just building muscle. Did you look at the photos of Amanda Latona? See the curves to her body? Tone is about tightness and shape. Think of it this way, look at the difference between a Corvette and a Hummer. The Corvette has lines and flows. The Hummer is just big and cumbersome.
The Corvette is tone where as the Hummer is bulk. Women tend to get scared when you mention muscle or even in this case tone. They automatically think of big muscles like a bodybuilder. Those big muscles though are what is considered bulking.
So tone would give you that shape and define certain areas.
I totally understand though that runway and print modeling wants a certain figure. One that is more lean. Personally I disagree with that ideal. I much more prefer the body of someone like those girls I showed you (speaking in a modeling sense). I think it causes beautiful women a lot of image problems but this isn't about my ethical beliefs.
As an aside, I knew this model years ago who was barely 5'1, but she had a nice body. Her agents told her to lose all this weight. She told them forget it and went on to get magazine covers, be a cover model to 3 romance books, and do music videos and TV projects.

Resistance training is simply doing an activity with any level of resistance, aka weight lifting. But the same goes for bodyweight or bands. Anything that forces you to make an effort to complete a maneuver.
You don't need to lift heavy weights. And I assure you there is no need to worry about bulking or putting on muscle or weight. It is not easy to put muscle on, its even harder for women, and its even harder for someone like you who is naturally lean.
So back to toning, you don't need to lose weight as much as you need to shape your body.

As for the food. I'd have to wonder what you eat, like what are you eating to accumulate those 1200 calories? And ignore what fitness pal says. Its a good resource to track stuff but ignore their suggestions and scales. Same with the BMI. For my height (5'4), my ideal weight is about 125-130. If I weighed 125 I'd look like a Halloween decoration. All of those standards are (excuse the language) complete bullshit.
And as for Weight Watchers, its an ok program but you don't need it. Save your money. Weight Watchers is good for someone with 10 or more pounds to lose who is clueless about nutrition and has a history of eating poorly. You DO NOT need to lose 10 pounds.

Without knowing what you are eating I can't say how or why you are up to 130 or not as tight as you'd like to be.
Also keep in mind that you're 18. Bodies change. In fact the endocrine system is not completely developed until about age 21. Your body is still working things out which may cause fluctuations in weight or size of hips and such. If you told me you were 28 and had the same issues, then I'd say its more diet or an exercise issue.

Seriously and I'll give it to you straight. You need to get your confidence up. You're stressing too much about an inch here and there and what is expected of you. That stress hurts your health and body image too. You're too damn young to have that many worries anyway. Add to it your college classes and you're body probably feels like its just gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. (are you too young to know what a bad ass Mike was back in the day?) The stress is beating you up.

I will tell you, from what I see in the photos your body problems are extremely minor. Its 90% in your head.
I understand dreams and not feeling like you are doing what it takes to achieve them. I have unrealized dreams that are older than you and eat away at me. I've written movies for close to 18 years and just shake my head at the shit that gets made while I sit here with nothing. Its a hard reality. Actually that makes me think of something. People rave when I let them read my stuff. But industry people tell me it lacks this or that and a lot of other BS.
Go out there and see what the non industry people think of you. If they say you're looking good then you know you're doing it right. And truth be told, nobody but the modeling agents give a damn if your thigh is an inch or so off. And I don't see them out there on the runway.

I know I didn't directly address all of your issues but you can contact me direct. I don't usually do this, but if you promise to go easier on yourself its ok.
This is an e mail I used to use for a fitness blog I had bestfitnessnow@yahoo.com
Feel free to contact me anytime. I just don't want to see your mind or the industry get the best of you or nobody for that matter.  

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Tim Santoro

Expertise

I can answer questions regarding the following. Confusion about basic nutrition, explain how to improve diet, when and how to eat better, eating for weight loss, eating for health, eating for fitness. I will answer questions about nutritional and workout supplements. I will not endorse any fad diets, however I can explain the draw backs to them and explain why they are the wrong way to go. I will not give advice relating to medications and/or their interactions with food and supplements.

Experience

I have earned certifications in Fitness Training and Fitness Nutrition from ISSA. I also self taught and stay current on the fitness industry. I lost 70 pounds training my self.

Publications
www.bestfitnessnow.com

Education/Credentials
SFN- Specialist in Fitness Nutrition from ISSA CFT-n Certified Fitness Trainer from ISSA

Awards and Honors
Just the thank you from people I get to help.

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