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Thinking about signing up for the Orangetheory Transformation Challenge? It’s a good idea to be prepared for all of the things that can go wrong — because they probably will. Some of the biggest hurdles in my life happened during the eight weeks that I was competing in the challenge, but I was still able to win. 

You want to make everything as easy as possible, and the best way to do that is to have a clear plan. I knew what kinds of foods I needed to eat, my fridge was stocked and I respected my body’s limits. When life threw me curve balls (because it really did) I was ready!

Preparing for the Orangetheory Transformation Challenge

One of the most important things I did was prepare for the Orangetheory Transformation Challenge. I didn’t want to wait to figure things out once it got started. Here are some of the steps I took to get ready. 

The Keto Diet

The first thing I did was research the keto diet. It’s not for everyone, but I’m aware of the fact that my body doesn’t respond well to wheat. At the very least, it seemed like an opportunity to see how my body responded to removing it from my diet.  After doing some Googling, I decided buy the following supplies to get started:

Meal prepping is so important. In fact, I planned all of my meals 30 days at a time. I made sure I had all of the supplies I needed for my meals and snacks so that there was no excuse to fall off the wagon. Then, I just used the same meal plan for the next 30 days. Easy peasy!

Here are some of my favorite keto recipes:

I’m not enough of an expert to explain how keto works here. In fact, I’m hesitant to do so because I don’t want to give anyone any bad advice. This post is about what worked for me, and you can use that information however you like. In the meantime, for a truly excellent keto resource, please check out Keto Connect

A Checkup and a Shopping Trip

Before I got really serious about the Orangetheory Transformation Challenge, I consulted with my doctor. I’m not 20 anymore, and after giving birth to a set of twins (my 5th and 6th — and final! — children) my body hasn’t quite felt the same. Fortunately, I was given the all-clear! 

The next thing I did was stock up on some supplies. Here’s what I bought:

We aren’t exactly rolling in the dough, but making this investment in myself made me take the Challenge more seriously. Sometimes, it’s the little things that really make a difference. 

Week 1

After weeks of anticipation and preparation, I was absolutely pumped for the Orangetheory Transformation Challenge to begin. I knew exactly what I was going to wear to my three workouts and what I was going to eat each day. Of course, I also needed to take a “before” picture. Here it is! 

Orangetheory Transformation Challenge

Now, here’s an example of what a typical day early on the keto diet looked like for me:

Breakfast

Snack – Blue Diamond Wasabi Soy Almonds (14)

Lunch – Bacon and Eggs

Dinner – Air Fryer Chicken Wings (10)

Every night, I made sure I was done eating by 7pm. Before bed, I enjoy having tea so I decided to do a Lemon Zinger or Turmeric Tea without anything added so that my body was in a state of caloric deficit until around 11am the next day. This provided me with about 16 hours of intermittent fasting.

If I’d tried to fast on my regular diet, I would have felt like I was dying. Doing it this way, especially with most of the hours being overnight while I slept, it was effortless.  I lost 11 pounds in the first week.

Week 2

The second week of the Orangetheory Transformation Challenge came with some hurdles. It was a bit of financial stretch for us both to bump up our memberships to do the required workouts together. Knowing Josh would be with me, dancing and sweating to the music, was worth the sacrifice. 

Then, I lost a long-term contract — a source of income I’d depended on for a decade. The company was closing down and there was nothing I could do about it. At the same time, I had suddenly become responsible for my grandmother’s nursing home expenses. It was really a tough time. 

My older kids knew I was going to suggest cutting OTF and nixed that right away. They said they’d happily eat ramen noodles and boxed macaroni and cheese (good thing, because that part came true!) if it meant that I could keep going. I think this helped me stay focused when I was truly struggling.

Week 3

On February 27th, during Week 3, we celebrated for two reasons. The first was that it was the 20th anniversary of a surgery that had saved my life. In 1998, it wasn’t clear whether I’d see the end of the year, but I fought like hell and here I am. We also celebrated Granny’s 91st birthday, even though I was far away. Despite her awful nursing home giving her a clean bill of health, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer just days later. 

Hot Yoga

Three workouts a week was tough on my body. We started going to hot yoga as a way of adding a fourth, gentler workout that would double as a stretch and recovery session. Even though I was an emotional wreck, I was determined to go to class. We found a spot in the back but the tears started flowing as I imagined this awful cancer eating away at my beloved grandmother. I don’t know how I made it through but, I’m glad I did.

Even if you’re not going through a tough time, yoga can bring up some stuff. I’m actually glad that I went that day because I released that initial pain in a healthy way instead of reaching for a bag of chips. Find a healthy outlet (like yoga) for your emotional garbage.

The following week, I went back and I was feeling so fierce that I actually pushed up into Wheel pose and attempted a handstand. Despite all of my struggles, I was changing and I was proud.

Weeks 4-5

At the mid-point check-in, I’d already lost 20 lbs. After initially losing 11 lbs in the first week, I’d lost four pounds in Week 2 and then three pounds in both Week 3 and Week 4. Then, all of a sudden, I gained two pounds. It was a huge shock for me!

While my menstrual cycle was the lightest it had been in years (maybe ever!?), I did have some bloating and water retention. It messed with my head a little bit but I worked through it. The most important thing was just staying hydrated (I drink about 100 ounces of water every day!)

My cravings for things virtually disappeared by Week 5 on the keto diet. I’d stopped having fat bombs at breakfast with just my heavy cream tea keeping me feeling full for hours. I used to have huge mood swings if I didn’t eat breakfast. I’d get hangry if I had to wait too long for a meal. It was unbelievable to suddenly feel like my blood sugar was so well regulated. It was miraculous! 

Weeks 6 & 7

Part of the health problems that had plagued me for more than 20 years was (TMI) chronic diarrhea. Every single day for TWO DECADES, I had the runs. In fact, I’ve got a handicap placard on my van so that I can park and get to a bathroom quickly, if need be. The keto diet has changed that. Now, I have formed poops. I literally texted my family from the toilet to announce this the first time it happened. It was incredible.

Here’s an incomplete list of other things I no longer experience:

  • Menstrual cramps
  • Heavy periods
  • Severe hunger
  • Blood sugar regulation issues
  • Gas or bloating (unless it’s hormone-related)
  • Cravings

In the past, I couldn’t go four hours without eating. By Week 6, I discovered I could go a whole day without eating (or more!). It’s insane. When I’m fat adapted and fully on the keto diet, I almost never feel really hungry.

Whenever I got peckish (a rarity), I’d have almonds, macadamia nuts or a Slim Jim to stave off the hunger. What I noticed, though, was that the root of the problem was rarely hunger. Sometimes, I’d get cravings if I hadn’t had enough water to drink that day. Sometimes, it was boredom. So, have a cup or two of water and distract yourself before you reach for the snacks! 

Week 8

The final four weeks (especially Week 8) of the OrangeTheory Transformation Challenge was a bit of a mind game for me. When OTF shared the percentages of the Top 5 competitors at the midway point, I knew I had the highest number. There were three people right behind me, though, so I tried not to psych myself out. I decided to approach the end of the challenge like I’ve learned to treat my workouts.

Orangetheory Transformation Challenge

My left Achilles tendon hurt all the way through the end of the OrangeTheory Transformation Challenge (it’s still achy!), so I couldn’t do any inclines. I was frustrated and ashamed by this initially, but then I decided to focus on my actual small victories. I stopped caring about other people’s Splat Points and paces and just played my own game.

Orangetheory Transformation Challenge

At OrangeTheory, there’s a Base Pace, Push Pace, and All Out pace and, if we’re lucky, we get a walking recovery. When I started going in November, my Push Pace was 3 mph. Seriously. Today, it’s 4.7-5.0 mph. Yes, I see some people WALKING at that speed, but I don’t care. It’s good for ME and that’s all that matters.

Here is my list of things you should NOT do to win the Orangetheory Transformation Challenge:
  • Do NOT let any coach push you past your limits. You don’t want to get injured (or worse) because some stranger is telling you to work harder. Watch the heart rate monitor, keep it in orange as much as you can and then let it go.
  • Don’t overdo the workouts. People were almost killing themselves with five or more workouts a week. Your body needs time to rest and recover. I won with just three workouts a week. 
  • Skip the running if it hurts or feels like too much. Seriously, I walked for most of every workout. It was my body’s best effort and that’s all that matters. 
  • Don’t worry about anyone else. Focus on your own journey. Keep your eyes on your own treadmill or heart rate display. Don’t compare yourself to other people, and don’t let anyone else make comparisons either. 
  • Don’t share your progress. This might be subjective, but I think it’s a good idea to keep your methods and weight loss to yourself. People loooooove to poke holes in others’ confidence. Avoid talking about the Challenge as much as possible.

Celebrating My 40th

My 40th birthday came just a few days before the final weigh-in for the OrangeTheory Transformation Challenge. There was NO WAY I was going to touch a piece of cake or go out to dinner. Good thing we couldn’t really afford anything fancy!

I spent the morning working out in a tutu with my OTF family and, that evening, Josh and I went by Qdoba as we had done almost every Wednesday night of the challenge for date night. When I told the ladies it was my birthday, we got to talking and I told them about some of the things that had been going on in my life.

Bogus Basin Mountain Coaster Glade Runner

 

When we got to the till to pay, they told us that our entire order was free! I genuinely cried. We were broke, it was my birthday and I was trying to make a responsible decision for my diet and the Universe had my back. Thank you!

We played a board game at my daughter’s apartment as we’ve done to keep our date nights cheap these past couple months. She comes to the house to help watch the babies so that we can have some time alone. How great is that? While we eventually went and celebrated my 40th like a couple kids, I was so grateful for this humble recognition of my milestone birthday. 

Last Minute Weight Gain!

Two days before the Orangetheory Transformation Challenge weigh-in, I got my period. We call it “Shark Week” on the keto boards. Immediately, I gained two pounds. While I managed to lose one after hot yoga the next day, I’ll never know what my numbers would have been if that hadn’t happened!

Orangetheory Transformation Challenge Winner

In the end, I lost 28.4 lbs which is 12.26% of my starting weight! In eight weeks. I can live with that. I’m so proud of myself. I stuck to this challenge despite all of the struggles we have been facing.

Forbes hired me as a contributing writer and another university asked me to teach an online course. We’ll be digging ourselves out of a hole financially for a while and we had to downgrade our membership but I am not going to give up. The fight to keep this momentum going continues and I’m so fortunate to have such a strong support system behind me.

If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading about my journey. I am looking forward to sharing the next chapter with you!