How do you food shop?

Once upon a time ago I asked my trainer @thegravitycollective if he would go food shopping with me. It was because I was truly clueless about my diet and in my change to be healthy, I did not want to screw up. I basically wanted Ryan to thump me in the ear every time I put crap in my cart. Well we never made it to the store but I grilled him on good vs bad foods

Then as I found my healthy path and my life changed, people – and now my clients – asked me, what should I buy? What should I be eating? What do you eat? I don’t know how to shop healthy? … I get it. I lived it.

So in an effort to share and be 100 percent transparent with how I shop and eat, I photographed my shopping trip today, my fridge, freezer and cupboards. Am I perfect? No. Do I do my best to only eat perishable foods that are healthy? Yes. I also try to buy organic when my budget allows.

So there you have it. I hope what you see here will help on your next shopping trip. Processed foods are poison – IMHO!

Dealing with Loss Through Memories

The year 2018 ended with a major family loss. My Mother, who was ill, passed away on New Year’s Eve, four hours or so before midnight. When I got the call that she was gone I had the most bizarre feeling come over me. I was not sad. I did not cry. I did not go running around looking for items she had given me to be more “near” her. I just sat there. Confused.

I couldn’t think. I was confused about how I was suppose to move forward. It was like someone took my name away from me. How can you go forward if you don’t have what you’ve always had in life, my Mom.

I sat on my bed and I starred at my phone as if it were going to give me answers and make my confusion disappear. After a couple of minutes I opened my photos and looked at old pictures of a trip we took together, and smiled at my beloved memories.

The next morning I packed up and pointed my car toward Florida. I figured along the way it would hit me and I would finally be able to feel again. Five hours with my mind going everywhere from the comedy stations to music stations to silence in a repeated circle did not bring me to a changed emotional state. I was still confused. And, it was as though my Mom’s passing affected the day. The comedy stations were horrible, the music was blaa and the silence put me to sleep.

I arrived to Florida. It was Tuesday. Over the course of the next few days my sister and I did a lot of walking and talking about how we felt, which was not feeling at all. Then Friday came. We were finally invited to Mom’s house by our stepfather to find Mom something to wear. We had been waiting for this moment not sure if it would even happen. I still had my non-feeling, confused state that I assumed was my new norm. Then we entered Mom’s house.

When we walk through the back door I was first hit with the smell. My sister said to me immediately, “wow, that’s the smell of mom.” However, that was NOT the smell I connected to Mom. The smell my sister had adopted as Mom’s was her “in care” smell, for lack of a better way to put that. It was the smell of a nursing home.

I am still in the Army for a few more months. My living in Georgia has buffered me from the realities that my sister and stepfather had to deal with on the daily. To me, Mom’s smell was of flowers and food. She always had something cooking on the stove, or had just finished cooking or was about to start cooking. That was Mom’s smell to me. The smell of food mixed with the sweet smell of her perfume.

But this smell, this nursing home smell… that only contributed to my confusion. As I moved into the kitchen to see the place where she spent so much of her time, I noticed her kitchen table looked like it always did. It was covered with mail, and random belongings that had not been put away yet. It looked as though she simply stepped out to go food shopping. Yet, she had not. I was confused as to how I could still be smelling a nursing home when I was in the hub of her home – the kitchen.

Me, Mom and the kitchen have a great history together. Some of my earliest memories are of her teaching me how to cook and letting me help her make dinner every night. I would pull a chair up to the stove to stand on and stir whatever she told me I could stir. As I did she would explain to me everything she was doing. I asked questions about spices and creams and temperatures and times. Every night – it was our thing.

At age four I asked her, “can I cook dinner for everyone tonight by myself? I can do it. I know how?” I was convinced. She was not. She said, “Sherrie Bear, you always cook dinner for everyone. We do it together.” She never turned the kitchen over to me. She valued having a home and felt the need to protect it from an over zealous four year old thinking she was a chef.

Back in Mom’s kitchen, I looked to the stove. It was uncharacteristically clean. Free of food and pans and spoons and even the butter that was ALWAYS out. It was an unfamiliar look and a clear sign that she was missing. My brain failed to compute that though. It was still going through smell memories, searching for Mom.

I moved to the living room and there is where my confusion that had plagued me began to clear. I looked down at the foot of the couch and saw Mom’s shoes. I am not sure why shoes of all things was my trigger. Maybe because I love shoes so much, but more accurately it’s because for some reason in that moment, those shoes were my Mom. I could not find her in our beloved kitchen, but I found her in the living room. On the floor… in the form of two blue cloth tenny-runners – as she would call them.

I didn’t break down, because that is not how I react to things. And after 20 plus years in the Army, I am an expert in compartmentalizing stuff. However, my breath left me and that is when my confusion turned to pain and loss. I realized in that moment that those shoes would never be worn again. That she would never talk to me about her big, monster bunions on both her feet ever again. That we would never cook together again and that I would never sit on the couch with her to watch Animal Planet with those feet of hers on my lap or tucked under my leg.

I blinked hard, wiped my eyes and moved on. I was on a mission – find Mom a nice shirt. I did.

I could go on and on about this day and even bleed on into sidebars about who my Mom was and how she impacted my life. I think it is safe to tell you that she impacted my life profoundly. I have SO MANY memories of her. She was a beautiful woman, who had many flaws (like us all) but most importantly, she was my best friend.

I don’t know when I will fully let go and experience the loss of my Mom. Maybe never. And that’s okay. I’m a firm believer in making, documenting and visiting memories often. I will have all my memories of Mom to help me through when the time comes. I am also not sure I will ever return to my Mom’s house. I would like to, but when I do all the essence of Mom will be gone and only a cold shrine of her belongings will stand. When that day comes, I will use all my many memories to give the place warmth and her presence and smile back.

Peace and love. And make beautiful memories people!

Meal prep! Getting back to the basics.

I used my 1 cup and 1/2 cup measuring tools to create these.

One thing you will learn about me and my blog is I will always be real. I will share my ugly and my pretty. Meaning, I will not hide when even I find myself in a bit of a struggle. Why? It’s because, like you, I am a real person with real issues and real daily struggles. The fact that I am now a Personal Trainer and coach, does not turn me into a super human, free of mistakes or failures.

Maintaining my healthy lifestyle is just as much of a struggle for me as it is for my clients and my readers/followers. I know firsthand how you can think you’re doing this and that all under the banner of being healthy only to be faced with the reality that I’ve become comfortable.

Yesterday I had to get real with myself. Every time I looked in the mirror my butt seemed a little more round. My clothes were not tight, or even snug, but they were not what they were before. My last doctor’s visit told me my weight was 157lbs. That’s my par. I’m good with that number. But something told me things were not right.

So since my personal home scale was broken, I made the trip to the store and purchased a new one. When I got on it, I was shocked to see that by that scale, I had bounced out of my good weight margin of 152-157lbs to 165. WHAT!!! I have not weighed 165lbs in two years.

So I sat there stunned and collected my thoughts. I did not beat myself up mentally about it. Why? What would be the point? That way of thinking I learned a long time ago is counterproductive and only produces opposite healthy lifestyle results. Instead, I took stock of my last two years and worked to hone in on that reason and looked about changing things.

This reflective moment took me back to the timeline before my August 2017, 9 month deployment. As you may have read in my original journey, weight loss on a deployment is not real. So before my deployment I weighed 155-157lbs. I returned to that same weight once my system settled back into being home. Yet, then, I somehow got comfortable. And depressed. I will discuss depression in another post, but for now, know that I am sharing with you a major symptom that contributed to my comfortable weight gain.

In my reflection I realized the HUGE mistake I made. This may be a tool that you all too may benefit from, and it may be a key helper in your own healthy lifestyle journeys. That mistake was failing to return to the basics – weekly meal prepping.

Meal prepping before my deployment was my thing. Every Sunday I would cook and prep my meals for the week. It’s because I cannot trust myself to know when to quite eating and to know correct portions every time. The “eyeballing it” method is a total bullshit and a lazy measurement tactic. I had been “eyeballing it” for six months. And the repercussions was an 8lb weight gain. Ugh!

Again, you will notice I am not beating myself up. It happened. It sucks. As the old saying goes, it’s not how badly you fall that’s important, it’s how you get up, dust yourself off, recover and move forward.

My moving forward was to get back to the basics and get back to meal prepping. I know some of you may be thinking, ‘but I hate to cook,” or ‘who has the time for that’ or ‘but that doesn’t sound easy’ or whatever it is you think about when someone mentions meal prep. Toss that all out. If you are making a major healthy lifestyle change, and weight loss is one of your goals along the way, you need to seriously look at and participate in meal prepping.

Here are the benefits of meal prepping and why it’s important, especially for those of you like me who HAVE to work hard and monitor their weight as part of your healthy lifestyle change.

Portion control. Believe it or not, meal prepping causes you to unconsciously measure your food intake. You have a small container that you put your meal in. It is not a 10-12 inch plate. Most times than not, you grab a measuring cup to scoop out your assigned amount. And by the time you are done, you see what you are now going to eat. You may think, that is not a lot of food. Trust me it is and it is the right portion.

I put a ton of fresh veggies in my meals

Healthier choices. When you meal prep, you are thinking about what you will eat. When you follow a healthy lifestyle you automatically think about healthier food options. What foods will you pare with your chicken? I personally stay far away from starchy foods. I love potatoes, but I use mashed cauliflower instead. I learned to love veggies. Well, you can’t learn to love veggies you hate. You just starting eating or eating more of the veggies you do like. My hell no veggie is the brussels sprout. I don’t care who the chef is cooking them. They are nasty. Yuck! My point here is, meal prepping causes you to be smarter with your food choices and therefore your food consumption.

Time back. While you may think meal prepping is a time suck, it’s really not. If you spend one hour, one day of the week – I always do it on Sunday – you will not have to think about it at all during the week. Monday morning on your way out the door for work, you open the fridge, grab your lunch and go. That takes, what, 15 seconds? As apposed to getting up earlier, getting ready and then spending 30 mins figuring out what you will eat and then putting it together. I am all for getting time back because I can apply it to my sleep, morning coffee/me time and/or put it toward playing with my hair and makeup when I get into the glam mood. You choose; it’s your time.

Getting time back.

Plus it up. Add a salad to your meal. Salads are free bees if you don’t add a bunch of junk to them. Go for your dark, greens leafy lettuces. Add fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and/or sliced almonds. Refrain from using dressings unless you made a vinaigrette yourself. Dressings just mask the taste of real, healthy foods. Learn to eat your salads without dressing and enjoy the taste of all the ingredients.

Discipline. When you meal prep it helps you with your discipline to keep working toward your healthy lifestyle goals. When you meal prep it puts you in a certain mindset that 1) encourages you to push forward and 2) motivates you to get to your workouts. It’s the best, non-human, visual cheerleader. By seeing the efforts you put in your journey, it drives you to be better, do better, hit the gym more, and want to keep going. Meal prepping is a silent, odd ball counselor if you will. You will feel better after you meal prep.

Weight loss. This is the last benefit you will get from meal prepping. When you make this part of your life, the changes of 1) choosing healthier foods, 2) eating smaller, more controlled portions 3) attending all your workouts 4) being more disciplined, they will cause your weight to go down.

For all the awesome OCD folks out there. It all good. This is so not me. Lol.

My very last point about meal prepping is this. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Look at the first photo at the top of the blog post. That is my meal prep station. It’s far from pretty. You don’t have to use new fancy Tupperware or containers. Well unless you just don’t own any. Just use what you have and go. I have a mish-mosh of containers. My thoughts are, is it functional? Thinking you need a fancy set up to meal prep because you saw on Facebook or Pinterest someone’s meal prep station that looked the bomb, is silly. Meal prep and fancy don’t go together. Unless you’re OCD. In that case, rock on. Make all your Tupperware match. I on the other hand will be rocking whatever I can use to put food in. Again, I’m all about functionality.

I hope this post about meal prepping helps. I will check in later and give you an update on my goal to losing my 8lbs. It will happen. I know this because I was real with myself and I returned to the basics.

Peace and love your journey.

New Year, New you? The reality of New Year’s resolutions

This time every year, which really starts developing during Thanksgiving week, people start the ‘My New Year’s resolution is to get in shape’ narrative.  Grand plans are made and announced, gyms are selected, great recipes are found and the motivation to do it all is there.  It’s a perfect world and New Year.  Here’s the reality.

By March the New Year’s resolutions are out the window.  The excuses of “I’m too busy” or “it was just not working” has us returning to our pre New Year’s Resolution life.  I get.  I remember it well.  I would get on the scale only to see I GAINED weight rather than lose the 10lbs I ridiculously expected to after only one week at the gym.  This was always followed up with, “WTF am I doing wrong?  I’m doing everything right.  Screw this, it’s too hard and I want birthday cake.”

Yep, I know.  I sometimes think I had a hand in inventing some of those excuse based narratives. 

That is why a few years back I became the anti-New Year’s resolution girl.  And I am not wrong in adopting this mentality.  Just look at the statistics.  According to a Forbes article (1) only 8 percent of Americans stick to their NYR. A US News (2) article says it a bit differently stating the 80 percent of NYR fail.  In that article they say the failure occurs by the second week of February.  

But how do you stop that from happening?  How do you keep your
New Year’s Resolution?  By being realistic and seeing and avoiding the roadblocks you encounter.  Here is a look at the top roadblocks that cause
New Year’s Resolutions to fail, and some tips on how you can get around them.

The gym is the ring, your body is your opponent.

Pain.  It’s 2 January.  You’re now sober and ready to get after it.  You hit the gym full on like a pro MMA fighter.  In your head your theme song is playing.  The gym is now your ring and the opponent is your body.  Who will win?  Your body (pain) will.  Why?  It’s because you’re not a freakin’ MMA fighter. Nothing on MMA fighters, I love them, but people need to realize MMA fighters are elite athletes and we are at best, couch potatoes with wonderful intentions. That said, don’t feel defeated.  The gym is still your ring, your body is still your opponent, but you have to train hard and for the long haul (for life) to reach your goals.  Do you really think MMA fighters entered the gym, or better the ring, the badasses they are?  Hell no! They worked hard for it. They built up their skills and fitness in stages.  You have to work hard and build up your gym skills and fitness in stages too.  The only way to win the fight against your body is by pacing yourself.  Understand and accept that to achieve results and reach your goal, it takes time, effort and yes, hard work.  And, it will, AT FIRST, hurt because your body is fighting you.  

Remember your body is your opponent.  It will tell you to go back to the couch and eat crap foods again because when you did, you didn’t hurt.  Your body tries to trick you into believing that to be healthy is to hurt.  It’s a lie.  That’s the body’s right hook that is designed to knock you back to your old, unhealthy habits.  Don’t fall for it.  Duck, weave and attack your opponent (body) smartly.  Train in stages and only increase your output when you know you are ready.  Going to the gym and doing 100 walking lunges, 100 body weight squats and 100 jumping jacks… on the first day will only set you up to, not only fail, but be unable to move the next day.  There’s nothing like trying to sit on the toilet post a crazy/stupid workout the day prior only to end up falling into place.   It’s because your DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is so bad you can hardly move. So be smart.  Pace yourself, educated yourself, train smartly and control your body.  Don’t let it control you.  The pain will fade as you become more fit and healthy.    

Another roadblock is our favorite foods.  We start to miss them.  And holy hell, what witchcraft is used by mom’s and grandma’s around the world when they cook?  One visit home and the smell of homemade Mac and cheese – or for me, my mom’s potato salad – and we’re done.  I have no real good advice here. LOL!  I could say, just never go home for a visit, but that is not going to happen. Instead, try these tips. Don’t laugh, I am serious. 

The stronger the mint the better.

When you go home, chew the strongest sugar free mint gum you can find and keep chewing it. Chew it like you’re a 3 pack a day smoker.  When the flavor dies, shove more in.  That will cause you to not want to mix flavor with your mom’s yummy foods. Wintermint and marshmallow covered sweet potatoes don’t sound appealing.  You may eat some, but you will not want much or seconds.  Oh! And when you get done eating, start chewing your gum again.   

Another tip, stay the hell out of the kitchen!  Only go near food when the time to eat has arrived and the table is set. Most importantly, talk to your family.  Ask them to help you with your goal. Explain that family favorite foods are a serious temptation.  If your family responds with, ahh, it’s only one meal, then they don’t get it and you will cave to the temptation.    

This leads to the support system roadblock, or lack of one.  While we love our friends, family and significant others, they can be a huge roadblock.  Especially if they are also unhealthy and have no plans to change. Or, maybe there are fit and see no need to change their habits. It is very important to surround yourself with people who will help you on your journey to good health and well-being, and to identify who will derail you.  It won’t be easy.  Reduce your interactions with those who would rather you be unhealthy and eating chocolate lave cake a la mode with them.  Increase your time spent with new friends you meet at the gym.  Find your community that encourages you and your goals. It’s important. 

Find your community and support system.

Additionally, if home life lacks a support system, then be stealthy. Rather than cook two different meals – one meal for you and one for the non-participating members of your household, which is a pain – or announcing that you’re “changing the way I eat”, be crafty and just do it.  Don’t tell them anything; just start cooking healthy meals, period.  If they don’t like what you cooked, they can cook for themselves.  The reason I say be stealthy, is because for a lot of people, including children, once you announce, “we’re going to eat healthy” they automatically think food is going to taste like crap.  But if you just place healthy meals in front of them and don’t say a thing beyond, pass the salt, they will eat it and move on. 

The great byproduct of being a stealthy, healthy cook is your family will get healthier in the process and won’t even know it.  Win-win.

Other roadblocks do exist and you have to be mindful to see them. The three I mentioned here: pain from not working out smartly, the temptation of favorite/family foods and not having a solid support system are the major contributing factors for not being able to keep a New Year’s Resolution. Others like no time, being tired, no gym nearby, gym is too costly… are the easy ones to overcome.  No time ? If you have 30 minutes to kill on social media sites, you have 30 mins to workout.  Fatigued? By adopting a healthy lifestyle and becoming fit, your fatigue will go away. Exercise gives you more energy and you will sleep like a baby.  No gym/too costly? You don’t need a gym.  Google an at home, body weight program and start. You can do a workout in your living room, backyard or in a park.  I encourage you to go to the park. 

Every goal in life starts with one small achievable step.

My Dad had a saying: “what’s hard by the yard, is a cinch by the inch.” Meaning, develop achievable goals.  Start small. Learn a new healthy recipe each week. Over time, you will have learned how to cook amazing healthy meals that will become second nature for you.  After dinner, take a walk.  Instead of sitting in front of the TV or computer or on your phone, move and breathe in fresh air.  Bring your family along and bond.  If weight loss is your goal, then instead of, “I’m going to lose 50lbs in three months” say, “I want to lose 10lbs in six months by following this workout plan…”  Once you get there, you make a new goal.  Don’t overwhelm yourself right out the gate.  

Lastly, let’s talk about the wagon.  Unhealthy living can be viewed and sort of is viewed as an addiction. “I fell off the wagon when I ate…” you fill in the blank.  I know you’ve said it before.  I have. My addiction is to sugar/sweets.  My scenario went like this: “I fell off the wagon today; I ate a cookie at work. I may as well eat this big bowl of pasta now.” I fell off the wagon so often it was ridiculous.  Hell, all I did was chase the wagon.  Too bad you cannot lose weight chasing an idea. 


Then I learned that, “hello, my name is Sheryl, I’m addicted to sugar of all kinds…” and made the change to remove it from my life.  Am I 100 percent sugar free now?  No.  My change strategy was to know my problem, reduce my intake, which I did by about 80 percent, and leave the wagon behind.  Meaning, I don’t beat myself up anymore if I have a cookie or eat a small bag of potato chips.  And you know how that affected me?  It made me not want to eat the cookie or potato chips. 

When we are hyper focused on the “you can’t have that” mindset, all we want is what we shouldn’t be eating.  Instead, adopt the new mindset of, if I want it, I can have it. However, is it worth it?  It took some time for me to get used to this new way of thinking and retraining my brain to not beat myself into a mental oblivion, but I got there.  You can too; you just have to try.  And, if you choose to keep the wagon in your life, don’t fret if you fall off.  Just get back up on it and try again.  The only true failure in life is when we choose not to try or we stop trying all together.     

I hope this post helps you all with your NYR or life changes.  If you need a word of encouragement, drop a message in the comment box.  I will always help.  Good luck!

Peace and LovePeople.   

The Scale is a Tool

Why You Should Not Fear the Scale

I hate scales.  I’ve never liked them.  To this day when I see one my first reaction is to do an about face and quickly walk away.  This may be because after spending 20 plus years in the Army, and after having to be taped and weighed following every fitness test, I became overly sensitive to them.  They did not induce feelings of accomplishment or even maintenance in me.  Instead, feelings of failure and panic became associated with them. 

Once I became healthy and conquered these negative feelings, I had to rethink my view of the scale.  My first adjustment was to stop seeing the scale as a monster out to break me, but as a tool to remind me of my path, and to be that friend that tells me the truth when I get too comfortable, or in all honesty, stray from a healthy lifestyle.

Yet, how often should you consult your scale friend?  I know some people who are obsessed with the scale and will jump on one every morning.  Wow!  They’re brave.  I also know people who blissfully don’t even think about them, let alone choose to step on one. If only I could be like that.

For those of us who have to be diligent in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes checking our weight, I personally believe the scale friend should be consulted at least twice a month, and no more than once a week.  Why?  It’s because until one become friends with the scales, which is a hard, brutally fought friendship, the number we see can be counterproductive.  It can cause us to toss our hands in the air and say, why do I bother?

So before you allow your scale to derail your healthy path and progress, here are some facts that should be considered when thinking about stepping on the scale.  Knowing these will help you understand what the scale is saying to you and when it’s the best time to get on one.  More importantly, they will help you look at the scale in a healthy, fearless way.

Fact 1: During the day our eating and drinking adds weight.  Period.  It’s a fact.  The good news is that food and liquid is also purged from our system during the course of the day and the following morning.  Yep, that morning bowel movement is a good thing. It will help the scale move down a bit.  Just don’t fool yourself into believing you can excrement five to ten pounds away.  If you do that, please go see a doctor.  That’s not normal.  

The point here is, in the morning after your bathroom thrown has been visited, and before you have your morning coffee and breakfast, this is the best time to step up on a scale and check your weight.  Also, when you do this, I encourage you to have “weigh-in clothes.” Use the same clothes each time for consistency.  Or, do it butt naked.  It’s your choice.  Just do it the same way every time for the most accurate weighing.

Fact 2: Many women retain water before and during their monthly cycle.  In my own research for this WTF moment, where I wake-up in the morning feeling like a stuffed sausage, I learned that yes, I did go up a size in my jeans seemingly overnight.  During this time all I want to do is stay in my PJs or put on my workout tights. Thankfully the experts helped put my WTF moment into perspective.

“Some people can even gain up to five pounds (or more) during their period,” says Lauren Streicher, M.D. clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the medical director of the Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause at Northwestern Medicine. (1)

That’s because water retention during this time frame is all hormonal. 

According to a Healthline online article, “Estrogen and progesterone control the way your body regulates fluid. When these hormones fluctuate, the tissues in your body accumulate more water. The result is water retention, or edema.” (2)

So don’t freak out.  It’s not permanent.  Just like your morning BM, once we women are off our menstrual cycle the water weight goes away.  Personally, this is my most happy time of the month.  That day I wake up feeling normal again, and I dare say, skinny.

Fact 3: Using the same scale every time will ensure you have the most accurate and consistent results.  Don’t use your BFF’s scale.  Don’t use the grocery store bathroom scale.  And consider not using the gym scale.  Why?  It’s because you could get four different numbers depending on the type of scale it is and if the scale has been properly calibrated?  Hell, even the scale at the doctor’s office is questionable.  The numbers could fluctuate 1-5 pounds between them all.  Why freak yourself out for no good reason.  Just use your well maintained personal home scale to tell you your number.

Fact 4: The scale is not a monster; it’s a tool to keep you accountable.  It’s the friend who when you ask, ‘do I look heavy,’ will tell you the truth.  The scale will tell you if you are over a healthy weight limit, or if you are right where you need to be.  It can also be an encouraging tool that, as you progress down your health and well-being path, tells you how well you are doing.  There is nothing quite like the joy of seeing your weight loss by the numbers.  

I could ramble on and on about this topic, but that is not my objective.  My goal is to help remove the negative feelings you may have toward the scale.  I believe the above four facts are the most important points to consider when thinking about the scale.  Here is your big take-a-way.  Be kind to yourself.  Be honest with yourself.  Use the scale.  And if in fact you did gain real weight, don’t hate yourself.  Adjust your lifestyle and carry forward.  The path to maintaining good health and well-being requires us to have tools that help us on the journey.  The scale is one of those tools.  Become friends with it and use it like you would use a kettlebell or a resistance band – as a tool that helps you become the best version of you.    

Peace and Love.  

Follow me on Facebook: @essentialflowfitness


My Story: The path to Health and Well-being

My Story: A Journey to Health and Wellbeing

By Sheryl Lawry

I originally wrote this for my wonderful friend, coach and fitness mentor, Ryan Carroll of the Gravity Collective. It was for his blog. I see no reason to reinvent the wheel. My story has not changed other than now being a personal trainer is my post military career, and health and fitness is an unstoppable passion of mine. I hope my story touches you. Share it with your friends and read it as often as you like if it motivates you.

Tell me if this rings familiar to you.  You didn’t always have a weight problem.  As a matter of fact, once upon a time ago you looked pretty darn good.  Then something happened to change that.  That something could have been an injury, an illness, the birth of a child, the death of a family member… The “something” list could go on and on.  None of these things are bad.  They are just things that happen in life that have the potential to create a change in us that later down the road when we look in the mirror – or at a photograph – we no longer see and recognize ourselves.  If we are lucky, we have our ah-ha moment right there.  The moment we see our true reflection, wake up from our self-imposed fog, and seek out help.  If we’re not so lucky then the current road and journey we travel down continues unchanged.

With the latter, oftentimes the realization that something has gone amiss never comes because people simply do not want to endure the pain.  And make no bones about it, seeing your truth is a very painful.  It is way easier to run and hid from it.  I know this all too well because I did just that before I finally faced my own reflection via a photograph.  It was not easy.  It hurt like hell.  It was humiliating.  And it caused a lot of panic and tears.  However, in the end my desire to see me again conquered my fears and insecurities.  Here is my story, no my journey, to finding health, real fitness and happiness again.

I spent over 20 years in the Military – the Army to be exact. And while that may conjure images of fit and fierce Soldiers in full gear doing awesome Soldier things; that was not my reality.  Like the rest of the population, many members of the military battle weight problems.  I am one of those people.

1998 at 140lbs.

Two years into my career my “something” happened.  At a very fit and fabulous 140lbs I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor.  Directly after its removal – the first month to be precise – I gain 30 pounds.  Yep, I gained one pound per day.  It was nuts.  To say my endocrinological system was all jacked up would be an understatement.  Then six months later I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  Over the course of 16 years I was put on so many different medications for this symptom and that symptom that I darn near went crazy.  One medication, a steroid, caused met to jump up over 200lbs.  It was a nightmare. 

It was during this period that I adopted a get fixed fast mentality.  I tried every fad diet, pill and trick out there.  “Drink green tea!” Okay.  “Take this hydrocy something or rather pill!”  Okay.  “Only eat potatoes!”  Okay (because we all know how the potato famine turned out.  There had to be weight loss before death came, right?). 

Then out of pure frustration, and more truthfully, not finding a lasting get fixed quick solution in sight, I gave in to the easy excuses and started to craft my own personal narrative and set of talking points:  “I am overweight because I have hypothyroidism.” “There is nothing I can do about my weight; this is just how it is for me now.” “I’m not like you; I have a different system…”  I would share these talking points with anyone who would listen to me.  It was my way of hiding.  In hindsight, what I was doing was building my yellow brick road that would lead me straight to my rock bottom.

As with every road we travel on in life, my yellow brick road did have some temporary stops, or “successes.” At my highest recorded weight – 200 lbs in 2005 – I bought into a new get fit fast ad.  I drove myself to a company that made and packaged portion controlled meals for you to eat.  Their newly svelte television spokeswoman – who boasted about losing 70lbs – promised their program would work for me too. She talked me right into becoming a lifetime member of this weight loss company.  I lasted 6 months on their food plan before I got sick of it and stopped.  My success here was I did drop down to 180lbs.  Upon quitting, I quickly went back to my old narrative and talking points and even added a new one: “food is a necessary poison for me.  It’s bad for me but I have to eat.”  Yes, I do know how silly that sounds, but when you are in the throes of denial and you simply do not have the education and knowledge to fix yourself, you go with what makes you feel better and my narrative and my talking points made me feel better – sort of.    


In July 2009, I deployed to Afghanistan and experienced firsthand the “deployment weight loss” or “DWL” phenomenon.  I lost 30 pounds.  How did I do that?  I was not eating and I was working my butt off 7 days a week for 18 hours a day for 12 months straight.  Deployment weight loss never lasts; it is not real.  Once you return to life as you knew it, your old habits and way of doing things return too and that includes the weight.  I scrambled and fought for four years after that trying and doing everything I could think of to not let the weight come back.  Run a half marathon.  Done!  Run a full marathon!  Done!  Run a trail race.  Done!  Run an obstacle course style race.  Done!  This was when I stopped hiding and just started running.  I became Forrest Gump if you will.  Yet, all of my running was for nothing.  By the end of 2014 I was back at 180lbs.    

How I handled this weight gain was not smart.  Then again all the stuff I did before was none too bright either, but let’s not focus on my silliness.  I was freaking out and the real possibility of being kicked out of the military loomed large over my head.  The military has weight standards and I was out of those standards.  So my not so smart self promptly went out and found and hired the first personal trainer I met and said fix me.  Working with this guy I lost 7lbs.  Then I started to experience back issues. I threw my back out three times over the course of 9 months of working out with him.  I am talking, on the floor, cannot move, in excruciating pain type of back tossing.  I had to quit working with him and quit the gym altogether.  That was July 2015. 

Skipping over my back saga, by July of 2016 I had not worked out in 12 months.  I regained the 7lbs I had lost and added an addition10 more pounds on top of it.  I was miserable. 

July 4, 2016 190lbs

On Independence Day, like most families, my family celebrated with food and fireworks.  And accompanying the food and fireworks was a camera to capture all the memories.  It was when I saw the photos that I hit my rock bottom.  I honestly did not recognize myself.  I saw the red hair and the fair skin but I did not see the attractive – yes, I can be just as vain as the next person – girl my mind’s eye used to see.  Instead, I saw my reality, my truth.  No talking point was going to excuse away my current state.  I was out of control.  I was obese.  I instantly had a panic attack. 

I did what I always did – I went into fix it mode and I instantly started looking for the next get fit quick trick.  I pulled my sister aside and begged her to help me.  She convinced me to try the Ketogenic Diet.  I did not do well on it and it was not working fast enough.  So I stopped.  Then I shut down. 

During my shut down phase I did a lot of soul searching.  I looked at my life as a whole and started to accepted my failures and see my excuses, narrative, and talking points for what they really were.  Lies.  Then I asked myself two important, simple questions: how bad did I want to change?  My answer: super bad.  Was I willing to leave the past and the get fit fast tricks behind me and put in sweat equity?  My answer: hell yes. 

Falling back on my military experience I knew that hard work – sweat equity – was the only answer.  I also knew sweat equity was a slow burn, a marathon if you will, not a mad dash.  I accepted that too.  I envisioned my future and decided then and there that I wanted to be fit and fabulous in my 80s, and my old efforts with fad and trick diets was not going to get me there.  So I went looking for a gym and a new personal trainer.

Ryan Carroll, my coach, mentor and good friend

Enter Anytime Fitness Downtown St. Pete and Ryan Carroll of The Gravity Collective.  Ryan is the most seriously trained and qualified personal trainer in the St. Petersburg/Tampa area.  I still have yet to come across a personal trainer who can touch his resume.  I worked with Ryan for a year before having to move to my next military assignment, but I took him with me (we trained together remotely).  During our time together he was the best coach, then he became my good friend and now he is my mentor. He is one of the best in the fitness field and I am lucky to have him in my corner. But enough about Ryan. Lol! As I continued on my journey, I found I had a new passion in life – good health and well-being.  All that I was doing and all that I had learned from Ryan, I wanted to do as a job.  I wanted to pay it forward.  I wanted to help people who found there rock bottom and needed a hand to bring them back into the light.             

With Ryan’s skilled help, I lost 35 pounds. I saw him for two days a week at first.  My first few sessions with Ryan were repeats of movements I know I did when I was five years old – blindfolded.  However now I felt like I was already in my 80s.  I hurt all over.  I was dripping with sweat.  My hair was everywhere.  My face was red.  I was hyperventilating after each of the very short distance runs he would have me do.  But I gave him my trust. 

About a week in Ryan had me write down a week’s worth of my meals.  I was honest and wrote down everything, both good and bad.  I thought I was eating so well.  Boy was I delusional.  The first thing Ryan said to me was, “you have no nutritional value in your diet.”  WHAT?!?!?  Come again?  That was when the education of Sheryl began. 

Ryan put me on what he called an elimination diet.  It’s not a fad diet, but a 30-day purge for your system.  This purge is designed to bring your body to its baseline and rid it of toxin and sugars. 

When my 30 days were up Ryan asked me what my body was craving.  “Well… milk!”  I was not craving anything else.  I also noticed some weight loss, which was nice, but I did not know for sure if that was truly happening.  This is because due to my fears I did not let Ryan do his job at the start correctly.  I would not let him weigh or measure me to see what my start point was.  I was too embarrassed.  I knew I was 190lbs and I just could not bring myself to letting him see that.  Letting him see that meant I had to look at my reflection again and I hated that view.  So I waited to see a success.

After a conversation with my sister, during my wait to see a success phase, she convinced me to let Ryan in.  She said get on the scale and record the measurements.  I took her advice, controlled my anxiety and told Ryan I was ready to let him do his job.  I just did not want to know the results.  On the scale, I looked away.  During the measurements, I pretended I was not there.  To this day, I have no clue what he recorded.

Upon the realizing that I was an addict, an addict to sugar, I went home and purged my kitchen of everything.  I filled my kitchen with organic and farm raised, grass-fed foods.  I completely cut out all refined sugar and dove straight into the Paleo lifestyle. 

Around November of 2016, I increased my workouts with Ryan to three days a week.  I had an Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) coming up and I wanted to do well.  One morning I was feeling stronger and less fearful so I jumped on my home scale for the first time since July.  When the scale displayed 178 I about fell over.  By working out and following the healthy, clean eating lifestyle, I had lost 12 pounds.  By December 8, when I had my pre APFT weigh-in, the Army’s gym scale displayed 172lbs.  I damn near cried.  I had not weighed in that low in years.  I was 18 pounds down. 

By the end of the 2016 I was working out with Ryan five days a week.  By mid-January 2017, I was 165lbs, down 25 pounds in five months and five pounds away from my first weight goal.  My second weight goal was 150lbs.  I reached 147lbs in October of 2017, partly due to a new deployment. I started the deployment in August at 155. When I returned home, I returned to my pre-deployment weight, 155lbs.


Today, for my age and for my fitness level, I bounce between 152lbs and 157lbs.  I am okay with this because I know my system now.  I am healthier then I have ever been in my life.  Because of my journey, fitness is now my career.  I first attended the C.H.E.K. Institute and then the National Academy of Sport Medicine.  I will continue my education with more courses in Kinesiology, Nutrition and more.  This passion led me to create Essential Flow Fitness in Dec of 2018.  I want to help people who are where I used to be – rock bottom.  I know that place well and I know how to leave it in a healthy, realistic way.  I will always give 200% to my clients and if I have a question, I have the training and the resources to develop a solution.