Adventures in Fitness, Fashion and Fabulousness


As I enjoyed breakfast with a colleague during a business trip, I ended up having a chat about fitness.  Being that my colleague and I are both into healthy nutrition and exercise, the topic of body building came up.

“So, you compete in figure shows?” she says. “That’s so cool!”

“Why, thank you.  I am currently trying to put on weight so I can grow muscle.  So far, I am 20+ lb over competition weight, and I am trying to keep it up.  It’s very weird, but I am learning a lot.”

“Oh,” she says. “So you are supposed to drop all of that weight later?”

“Eventually, yes.” I reply. “But only for the show.  It is not sustainable to keep it that way.”

“So, this is not your real body, is it?”

That got me thinking.  This was not the only time in which someone tells me that this is not my real body, presumably because my real body would be the one I show up on a stage during a figure show.

Except that the rest of the year, I have the body that I have today.

The question also makes me feel like the Pod People from Attack of the Body Snatchers.

If I am not wearing my real body, whose body am I wearing?  My neighbor’s?

I find the question really amusing.

My back at the August 2012 Figure Show.  Weight: 110 lbs. soaking wet.

My back at the August 2012 Figure Show. Weight: 110 lbs. soaking wet.

My back today, April 2014. Weight: 134.

My back today, April 2014. Weight: 134. A lot more muscle, and honestly, a lot better.

So what is my real body?

The answer is simple.  My real body is the body I have today.

And the body I had in 2012.

And the body I will have a year from now, provided I don’t kick the bucket.

We are issued only one body, and we’d better take care of it because it’s the only one we have.

One of the weirdest experiences is that of the post-show blues.  Nobody tells you about that, but any competitor, whether a newbie or a veteran, knows what I’m talking about.

When you are prepping, you get a lot of compliments. “Wow!  You are losing so much weight!  You look great!”  And in our culture weight loss equals beauty.

However, once you are done with the show, you cannot stay in that weight and body fat levels without running the risk of damaging your metabolism.  Hence, you must slowly but surely bring your weight up to a more realistic level, and start building muscle again.

Why? Because you cannot grow muscle if you stay at that ridiculous level of low body fat.

On the other hand, eating for growing is such a change from eating for losing that it takes some time to get used to it physically and psychologically.

So after panicking after going up two sizes (from 0-2 to 2-4), I have come to the realization that the goal is not in being slim for the sake of being slim, but to be in the best shape of my life and get even better if I can.

Exhibit A, my back.  One of the major things in bodybuilding is to develop a nice “V” taper.  Back in 2012, I managed to get in great shape, but my muscles were not on par with my goals.  If you notice the two pictures above, you will know what I am talking about.

The first is a picture from my 2012 show.  I was 110 lb. and my “V” taper wasn’t that great.

As you can see from the second picture, the “V” taper is a lot more noticeable.  True, I will still need to drop body fat before strutting around on a stage in a posing suit, but I have a much better base to start with.

And there I am.

Yes, both of these pictures are of my real body.

I love my body.

I love dressing up that body.

And at the end of the day, it is all about taking care of that body and see how far I can take it.

~ Belfebe out.


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I am not dead…

Good grief!  I just noticed that I have not updated this blog in about a year.

Bad, bad Belfebe.

This does not mean in any way that I have abandoned my fitness goals and that I have stopped going to the gym and eating healthy.

Not in the least.

The thing is that I spent 40% of last year in foot braces, first because of the bunion surgery and then because I managed to break my other foot.  And while I could have blogged about the wonders of hobbling around in orthopedic boots, I was so fed up that I simply couldn’t bring myself to write about it.

So there.

So what am I up to these days? Still working out and figuring out my nutrition.  Currently, I am trying to put on weight in preparation for the next season.  As per coach’s instructions, I am eating as much as I can and lifting heavy.  Hopefully, that will get me to grow as much as I need before preparing for this year’s show.

“Wait! ” I’ve been asked. “What do you mean gaining weight? Wasn’t losing weight the whole point? Why do you want to gain it back?”

Hah! Not only I need to gain it back, but I probably need to put some extra.  The thing is, I need to build muscle mass before cutting fat for a show.  And you can’t put on muscle mass if you are not eating.

“But wouldn’t you get huge like a guy?”

Not really. Muscle is more compact than fat.  You can weigh more, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you get huge.

Exhibit A:  At this point I am 134 lbs, and I am heavier than I have been in years.  Yet, I can merrily zip my size 2 pants, no problem.  If I can get to weigh 150 and still zip my size 2 pants, I’d be golden.  But it would take a lot of time and effort to put on that kind of weight all on lean muscle.  So I take what I can get.

In the meantime, I am enjoying the eating more.  Once I get to diet for the show, I will miss the food.

This doesn’t mean that I am eating pecan pies and donuts to gain the weight.  That would not be helpful at all.  The whole point is to eat lean protein, lots of greens, plenty of complex carbs, and a good allotment of good fats.

Easier said than done.  Those kinds of foods are very low in calories and rich in nutrients.  So in order to pack the kinds of serious calories that I need to get in, I need to eat a lot in terms of volume.

It’s not easy being me.

But I like to eat, and like to lift.  I will enjoy it while I can.

Hah! 134 and still a size 2. I call that a win.

Hah! 134 and still a size 2. I call that a win.


Leave your pride at the door, or going back to the gym after surgery

Five weeks ago I underwent bunion surgery.

It’s been a process.

It all started with a bunion that had never bothered me until it did.  And when that happened, it went all out.  Given the fact that at this particular time I had enough leave to take time off and recover comfortably at home, and that it is winter time, my doctor and I decided to go for it now rather than in the summer.

Besides, summer is for bike rides, figure shows and rapier tournaments.  The last thing I want to do six months for now is to stare at the window and lament that I can’t go out on such a gorgeous day.  So there, the decision was made.

The Foot in the Boot.  Merry Christmas, ho ho ho.

The Foot in the Boot. Merry Christmas, ho ho ho.

I will not bore you with the details of the surgery.  Suffice to say that the first two weeks were as painful as it sounds, but I was more mobile that I would have expected.

A piece of advice, even if they give you a boot, if they offer you crutches, take them.  You will be happy you did during that first week.

At any rate, for an active girl like me, the hardest thing was to stay home and off your feet.  Admittedly though, I did a lot of sleeping and resting and that was not too bad.

On the other hand, by the end of week two I decided to venture out to the gym in the understanding that I had medical clearance as long as a) I didn’t do free weights; b) I only did upper body; and c) I exercised sitting down.

That went great while I was at the gym (and it felt like a million bucks!).  However, by the afternoon my foot was pretty swollen and going back to the gym was not something I was looking forward to.

That’s when I decided that I was not going to drive myself crazy.  Despite my little inner voice calling me a sissy, I decided to give myself permission to not go to the gym until my next doctor’s visit, namely 3 weeks from then.  In the meantime, I watched my nutrition and caught up with sleep.  No point in putting on more fat than needed with the excuse that I was “off” my exercise plan.  My criteria was that as long as my clothes fit, I was doing fine.  Which I did.

The 3 weeks came and went and, much to my chagrin, my doctor told me that I would need 3 additional more weeks in the boot.  I had suspected that much when the night before I gently tried to coax my foot into my sneaker, and my foot refused to cooperate.

The question was, what to do next?

First things first, not to despair.  This is, after all, temporary.

On the other hand, I didn’t think that I could stand 3 more weeks without any exercise. Taking into consideration that I feel a heckuva lot better than last time, I gave it another try today.  My strategy? Do what I can, even if I had to do only half of a routine.  And if it felt wrong, painful or scary, stop right then and there. The last thing I need is to drop a weight on my foot or risk injury. That would set me back even more and it would not be productive.  Better to push what I can within reason and build up from there.

Another thing to consider is that I cannot do yet a lower body routine.  However, there are a couple of things that I can do.  One of them is good mornings, which is a great glute/hamstring/lower back exercise and it does not put a lot of pressure on my feet.  I tried it this morning and it worked like gangbusters.  Then I went on with my back and biceps routine and adapted it to my new situation.  Drop weights and running the rack works great. Supersets? Unless everything is right then and there and it doesn’t involve going back and forth between machines, it is doable.  Anything else, not so much.

I also had to back off the weight quite a bit.  It’s amazing what you can lose after 5 weeks of inactivity. However, I decided that how much I lift (or not) it’s nobody’s business but my own.

Rule #1 is don’t be stupid.  Rule #2, check your pride at the door.  If you follow those two simple rules, you will be okay.

My lesson for today? I can do this.

It will take me a little longer than I thought, but I will be okay.

And if I need to take a day off, I will.

After all, this is not the end of the world, and as long as I build up to regain my strength and go back to my routine, I will be fine.

And now, for your entertainment, I will leave you with a nifty video of how to do good mornings.

Stay tuned.



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Have you heard the admonition to “eat to 80% full” and wait until the signal reaches the brain to feel full?

Hara Hachi Bu No doubt you’ll find that little weight loss tidbit sprinkled throughout various fitness magazine articles with such headlines as “Top Ten Tips for Staying Slim”, or “Five Ways to Eat Less”.  (Side note: We want to be FIT, not slim. We want to eat MORE, not less. I digress.) That advice, however, is simply missing the bigger picture altogether. Frankly, it just doesn’t make sense.

Why would our bodies be designed so that when we actually felt full, we were really full 20% ago? So we over eat most of the time by 20%? Seems odd. Why not just feel full when we are full? That makes much more sense.

In fact, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. That is . . . if one very simple but very…

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Fish N’ Chips, Clean Eating Style

Quite often I am asked “So what do you eat?”

“I eat clean,” I answer. “Mostly unprocessed foods.”


“Er… stuff like oatmeal, egg whites, fish, grilled chicken breast, green vegetables.  That sort of thing.”

“Oh, you mean lots of salads and no carbs!  I get it!”

“Er… no.  Not really.  I do eat some salads, and I do eat carbs.  In fact, I need the carbs.”


“Really.  That and clean protein.”


“And fat.  I need fat.  Like avocado, almonds, natural peanut butter…”

“You eat fat???”

And so on, and so forth.

Clean eating means eating mostly fresh, unprocessed food.  It also means drinking plenty of water, no sodas or sweetened beverages, and at least in my case, no alcohol.  And contrary to popular belief, clean eating can be really tasty.

There ya go. Your typical, delicious, and artery clogging fish and chips.
Caloric content: One bazillion
Image credit: Wikipedia.

Take for instance, that shining example of culinary delight:  Fish and chips.

Regular fish and chips consist of battered white fish fried in loads of oil and accompanied with french fries, often served with tartare or some other sauce.

Delicious? Yes.

Healthy? Not so much.

Low calorie? (Is that a trick question?)

On the other hand, you can make a delicious clean version, quick and easy, using very simple ingredients.

First of all, you need to remember that in clean eating, condiments are key.  They will help you flavor your food, and once you get it to taste good (simple, really) you won’t go back.

At least, I haven’t.

So here it is a version of clean fish and chips, courtesy of my long-suffering husband, who came up with the recipe.

Clean fish and chips. Calories: According the Livestrong calculator, less than 200. Hooray!
Photo credit: Yours truly.

Red Snapper and Kale Chips

Serves two

2 steaks of red snapper, 4 oz each.  (You can make more steaks if you are having company)

Cajun spice to taste (we like Tony Cachere’s)

I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter spray (or some other nonstick spray)

Nonstick spray (for both the fish and the kale chips)

Fresh ground pepper

1 bunch of kale, rinsed, dried with a paper towel and torn into bite sizes.  (Remember to separate it from the center stem, which is kind of woody and tough.)

Kosher salt

Baking cookie sheet (I like to use 2 so I can make plenty all at once)

Preheat your oven at 375º F.  That will be for your chips.

In the meantime, heat a heavy pan.  Spray your snapper with the I can’t Believe it’s Not Butter or nonstick spray on the non-skin side of fish, and sprinkle with your cajun seasoning.

Spray your pan with nonstick spray and brown your snapper on the non-skin side of fish, for about 5 minutes depending on the thickness.  Turn and continue browning for another 5 minutes or until done.  Remove from pan and put on plate.

Spray your baking cookie sheet with the nonstick spray.  Spread your kale on top of the sheet, making sure that the pieces are not lumped one on top of each other.  This will help them to bake even.

Spray the kale with nonstick spray, sprinkle with kosher salt* and pepper, and stick it in the oven for 12 minutes or until the edges are brown and crispy.  Remove from oven and serve on plate.


*Note:  Remember that kale absorbs salt like nobody’s business.  Try not to go too heavy with it.

PS.  The snapper is incredibly tasty and the kale is better than potato chips.  Addictive!

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In which Laura’s ankle behaves and she goes back to the gym

Looky there!  Two posts in two days!

I feel accomplished.

At any rate, I went to the gym today and my slightly banged up ankle barely gave me any trouble.  It is still sore, all right, but it is getting better. 

It does help that today it was shoulders and biceps day, with some LISS cardio.  Tomorrow is quads, with lots of squatting, lunging, etc.  That should be interesting.

Q. So what is this LISS you speak of?

A.  LISS stands for low impact steady state cardio.  It burns a lot of fat at a steady pace, and you want to do it always after your lifting, not before.  It is more efficient this way.  It is great for fat loss in bodybuilding, combined with clean eating and strength training. 

Q.  Can you give me an example of LISS?

A.  A classic example of LISS is walking on a treadmill, on incline, at a steady pace without holding.  The idea behind this exercise is to walk at the highest incline you can without having to hold on to the treadmill handlebars, while rising your heart rate at a steady pace.

Q. So what incline is the perfect incline in this case? 

A. The one you can sustain without holding.  In my case, I like to kick it at 4.5 during the first minute as a warmup, and increase it within the next 5 minutes to 7.  The idea is to end at 10 or higher. 

NEVERTHELESS, this changes from person to person.  If for now 4.5 is the highest incline you can sustain without holding, keep that.  Try to go 5 next time and so on.  Sooner than you know, you will be sweating like a maniac at 10 without touching those handlebars.  It is a gradual thing.

Q. What is the perfect speed?

A.  Between 3.2 and 3.5.  Height is better than speed, at least in this case.

Q.  I have heard of HIIT (high intensity interval training), as opposed to LISS.  Which one is better?

A.  Both are excellent.  We can touch on HIIT on a different entry.

And that’s it for today.


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Of Safely Regaining Weight, Cycling Adventures and Bike Spills

Last time we saw our heroine, she was still glowing from the aftermath of her figure competition, and had promised to upload pictures.   

So where are the pictures, you ask?  In my”About” page that’s where!  At least my favorite pic of the batch is.  There may be more to come, or I may even do a “before” and “after” thingy.  Stay tuned.

I feel accomplished.

What happens next, then?  For one thing, I need to regain the weight that I shed.  Yes, boys and girls, since I am done for the year, I must put back the 13 lbs that I lost in order to compete so I can rebuild bigger and better muscle for next time.

Because, oh yes, there will be a next time.

So does that mean that I can finally go and stuff myself with Dunkin’ donuts and loads and loads of french fries? 

Not so fast.  The whole point is to regain the weight slowly.  If it took me 12 weeks to shed 13 pounds, it should take me 12 weeks to regain them, basically by eating clean.  The only difference is that now I can get the ocassional cheat meal.  Hooray!

So far, I have kept it up right on schedule.  The plan is to gradually reduce the cardio while keeping the lifting and to gradually increase calories.  As I have found out, it works like a charm.

This is us, right after the ride. At least, what was left of us.

At any rate, this past Sunday I joined my husband and a couple of friends on a biking ride.  (Yay biking!)  The ride was the Backroads Century Ride, a yearly event and one very hilly affair.  (Featuring lots of cows, sheep, llamas and kamikaze squirrels galore!)

I decided to do only 30 miles, since the training for a longer bike ride would have clashed with my figure show prep.  I hadn’t been on the saddle for the 12 weeks of show preparation, and had only done a couple of spinning classes since, so I was a little bit worried about my endurance.

I shouldn’t have worried, I was able to sustain the ride and, other than having to push my bike for a couple of nasty hills, I did reasonably well.

It is also a tradition that at every ride I either: a) take a wrong turn; b) fall off my bike; or c) all of the above.

I was feeling cocky. I didn’t fall off the bike! (Alas, I had spoken too soon…)

This ride was no different.  Almost at the end of our trek, I took a wrong turn and ended up going the wrong way while my husband yelled frantically after me “To the left!  Not that left, the other left!”

Once I got back on track, we were at the finishing line in no time.  And lo and behold!  I didn’t even fall of my bike!  I was so happy that I did a Snoopy dance.

Alas, I spoke too soon.  While riding back to the parking lot, I made a sharp turn and crashed on the gravel path injuring my ankle, hip and elbow.

No fun at all.

Me, with my feet up nursing my ankle. My cat is on my lap.

Luckily, it seems that other than a sore ankle (still stiff today), and a couple of lumps on the aforementioned hip and elbow, nothing is broken or seriously damaged.

I will live.

And after that, I will bike some more.

But in the meantime, I lift.

Or at least I will lift tomorrow, when my ankle feels better.

Oh, yes I will lift…