Friday, 10 May 2013

My Journey to Middleweight

As you may or may not know this weekend I will be competing at middle weight.  This will be my first time competing in this weight class in BJJ.   The last time I competed at a comparable division was my last MMA fight, July 2009.

Me at 145 July 2009

Middleweight for women is -152.5 with your gi, and everything else you need on.   In nogi its 147.5.  For men, its 181.5, I know men and women are different sizes, on average, but is the average really 30lbs difference?   If I look at the guys at my gym and the divisions they compete in, more are in light and feather then middle and above.  I should look up dome proper research on the matter.    That's not what I was planning on blogging about anyway....

My journey to middleweight started the day after I lost that MMA fight.  You can watch it here if you want to see me be embarrassed by TKO by a body shot lol.  It you want to see me not losing at MMA, watch my first fight, at 155, from earlier that year.  That cut, to 145, was pretty hard on my body; I think one of the main factors in actually making weight was the super dry Vegas heat.  I couldn't stay hydrated if I tried!   After that weekend, I binged, hard, I had fought only 6 weeks before then, and so hadn't really had a chance to have my post fight cheat week as most fighters call it.  So oars up for it.  Chocolate, ice cream, pizza, more ice cream, more pizza, it was bad, I was 160 in less them a month.

Over the next 6-8 months, I was training and getting ready for fights that kept falling through.  I planned and match made for the gfight summit, which I was supposed to also fight on, but a staph infection sidelined me for I maintained around 155-165 depending on the week.

I officially retired from MMA in late 2011, after suffering lots of stupid injuries, not being able to get a fight, and having trouble balancing training enough to fight, while maintaining a full time job, and being a decent wife.   At the same time, I took, and aced the command MMA judge course, and joined the OAC.  I wanted to still be part of the fight scene and judging fights seemed like the best way to contribute.  

I didn't train much in 2011, I was promoted to blue belt in late 2010, and nagging knee injuries kept me sidelined for most of it.   Mcl tear, quad tendon tear, bursitis, cartilage damage, arthritis, tendonitis, you name it; I've had it, except for a blown ACL. Somehow I have managed to avoid that one, it’s been suspected a few times, but turns out my acls are intact, just loose and sometimes useless.  Over 2011 my weight slowly crept up and up and up.  I am embarrassed to even type the number down... 195... Man, it was bad.  I just didn't care at that point, I was pretty depressed, and it was a bad time for me.

It turned around in the fall; I got a cortisone shot in my knee, switched to Pura, and decided that my knees were not going to stop me from training anymore.  None of my jeans fit anymore, and I was avoiding cameras because I was so embarrassed and self-conscious of my new found fatness.  I was almost always the "fittest" one in my group of friends and family.  My sister recommended I start using to track my food and set my goals.  I was semi-tracking what I was eating with a spreadsheet, but it was a lot more work.  MFP is a really great tool, when used properly. 

2012 Ontario Open Absolute Podium

I jumped right back into competing and competed in the heavy weight division For the first half of the year,  I was slowly making my weigh down to medium heavy, Eating 1200 cals a day(The MFP Recommendation, see where I said "When used properly", this was not the case), and kind of avoiding really bad food.  This left me grumpy and drained. I wasn't recovering well from training, and I was getting sick a lot.  At the 2012 Ontario Open, I competed in the heavy weight division,  I THINK I weighed in around 175 or so, I don't remember,  I had a big carby pasta dinner the night before, and a big breakfast, so in reality, I was probably more like 170 (with my gi on).  I've got to get Gringo to look up the actual weigh in amount; they keep a history, which is pretty cool.

My first foray out of heavyweight was the Grapplers Quest event in June 2012.   I competed in the -160lbs weight class.   I had to cut pretty hard to make that, not eating anything on Friday, and eating quite little on Thursday.  Also, doing the over hydrate, then stop drinking thing to help get rid of excess water weight.   The good thing was, weighin were on Friday evening, so I had plenty of time to rehydrate and refuel.   The bad thing was my body still didn't like the cut.  I had some bad lactic acid effects (which had really never happened to me in all my history of competing) and I felt week and drained.   I performed OK, but I lost a match I shouldn't have, because physically, I was done. 

Toronto IBJJF Medium Heavy
 The next foray into Medium Heavy was the Toronto IBJJF tournament in August,   My weight was much more comfortably under the limit, but I still needed to restrict my intake and watch how much water/and food I was consuming before I weighed in.    Physically, I felt much stronger then at Grappler’s Quest, and I didn't gas nearly as bad.   It wasn't ideal though, not being able to eat a big breakfast, and snack throughout the day was still affecting me and I knew I needed to get down a bit more.

Montreal IBJJF Absolute Podium

Fast forward a month or two, to the Montreal IBJJF tournament.  I made weight fairly easily this time around, had some pasta for dinner the night before, and had a decent breakfast.   I made weight just under the cutoff, and didn't have any trouble with my gas tank!   At this point, I was pretty content to sit in Medium Heavy for a while, and maybe make it my home.  Unfortunately,  looking at tournament registrations, and past results, and attending multi events and having no one in my division lead me to believe that, if I wanted to have people to fight,  I needed to move down 1 more division.   This was reinforced by a few matches over the next while where I felt that I was just physically to small/weak to compete against the girls in medium heavy.   I know, I could just lift weights and get stronger, but let's be honest, me, and medium heavy, is not me at my optimal body fat and whatnot.

So, In November, I decided to try a Paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet or to some Primal (which is like Paleo, but allows dairy).   It's basically eating only real food; nothing processed or packaged no grains either.   It's eating food that was generally available before industrialization and agriculture and whatnot.   I didn't fully embrace all facets of Paleo (like organ meat, and a few other gross things).  This was a pretty tasty adventure, and I think it kept my weight from skyrocketing out of control when, On December 1st I suffered a concussion while competing at Grapplers Quest.

Grapplers Quest Absolute

As you have read in the past and if you know I well, when I am injured, and out of commission, I get depressed, and it generally can get pretty bad.   I won't do anything, I'll avoid going out, I'll avoid people, I'll make excused to not do anything.  It becomes a pretty bad cycle and can be pretty hard to dig myself out of.    Not this time!   I think, one of the major factors in me becoming so depressed, was the food I was eating.   I know, I know, it's hokey pokey pseudo-science.  But, for me, it’s the only thing that was really different from other times I had been injured.  I have read a lot of blogs, and posts, and articles that support the "science" as well.    Anyways.... I was off of training completely for just over 2 months, pretty much 0 physical activity.  I was able to get out for walks at about the 4 week mark, and slowly was able to walk faster/longer.   Then at about 8 weeks, I was able to do very very very light drilling, but nothing interesting, or inverted, or rolling/twirling/moving my head much.   Around 9 weeks, it was like a switch, and I wasn't getting any physical symptoms from the concussion anymore.

So, in 9 weeks, which, in the past, I had managed to gain 25 or more lbs. in, I only gained about 7.   I credit the Paleo diet to that almost completely.  I still ate quite a bit, but I wasn't eating processed crap anymore.   I went gluten free, and it made my joint pain go away almost entirely (It can't stop me from tweaking my knee lol).   I had been finding, I was starting to bend and skirt the edges of the rules for Paleo, and I was making cakes, pies, and other delicious treats.  They were not losing weight friendly.  I still felt great, but I wasn't getting leaner.  I came across a post on r/Paleo about the benefits of a ketogenic diet, and whether you could balance Paleo and keto.   I became intrigued by this, and did a lot of research on the matter.

A ketogenic diet is basically an ultra-low carb, high fat diet.  It forces your body to use ketones, instead of carbs for fuel.  I'm not going to get into the science of it too much. But basically, you keep your carbs under 20-30g per day, eat enough protein to keep your lean body mass, and eat lots of healthy fats for fuel.  It was when I was doing research for this, that I discovered Avocados.  They are freaking amazing. So delish, so versatile.  I had used them a few times in my Paleo phase, but only as small parts of a few recipes.    Coconut Oil is also a staple of a ketogenic diet, and a Paleo one, for that matter.  It's got so many great health benefits.   Have you tried bullet proof coffee? It's so good.  It has made me a coffee drinker!   I don't go crazy with the fancy coffee beans, but I drink coffee, with a tbsp. of coconut oil, every freaking morning.

Just after fighting in Medium Heavy in Chicago

Before the concussion, my plan had been to compete at the Boston and Chicago IBJJF tournaments in the middle weight division.  Not being able to train, and not being too strict on what I was eating, sidelined that plan,   and I competed in the medium heavy for those events.

I started my keto diet at the tail end of February, I was around 165lbs.  The first 5 lbs. dropped off like nothing, which is pretty normal.  Basically, carbs = water retention, take those carbs away, your body retains a lot less water. Also, by not eating carbs, your muscle glycogen stores are depleted.   Some people will say, this will affect performance, and it will, at first, while your body adapts to using fat for fuel, but after a while, it's happy to use fat/ketones and performance no longer suffers.  In fact, for endurance, it gets better.  You no longer hit the "Wall" that is glycogen running out.   I've been at this point for a while, I’ve noticed I still get tired, but when training, I can do more rounds of rolling, without feeling like I am dying.

Me, after competing, and weighing in around 152 (without my gi)

Anyway... I've been ketoing since Mid Feb; I had a few cheat days, where I gorged on Deep Dish Pizza
(Chicago Open), but generally have been sticking to it.  I've tried to stay mostly Primal with what I am eating. So real food, but with dairy (cheese is a pretty big staple in keto).  Now, a lot of people will say "What about the cholesterol???", "Eating so much fat makes you fat" No. it doesn't, and there are lots of studies, and people on r/keto posting their before and after cholesterol levels and eating like this has lowered their bad cholesterol levels,  a LOT.   Does this mean we should just all eat bacon for every meal of the day for the rest of our lives?  NO, of course not.  But a bit of bacon, chicken (not just the breasts, thighs, legs, and all the meat), beef, and things like avocados, and coconut oil ARE good!

grappling industries Montreal April 28th
I dropped from 165 to 150ish by May 2nd. Eating way more calories than I did early in my weight loss, and feeling fuller, more energetic and better focused then ever over the last year and a half. Right on track, and perfect for the Ontario Open.  Then, on Friday my body went "Hey, I hate you, I'm not going to play nice", Like it does, any time I ask it nicely to play nice, and do what I want.  Now, haters and naysayers will say "It's because of your silly diet".  No, it's not.  It's because my body fat is getting relatively low,  I've been dieting/cutting weight for almost a year and a half, and my cortisol is likely through the roof due to life stress, work stress, stressing my body out training like crazy and do HIIT, and because, I'm a girl, and our bodies all hate us.

I hit up the guys on r/ketogains for some advice, and was recommended to do, a "protein sparring modified fast".  This is basically, eating just enough protein to maintain your lean body mass, some green veggies and pretty much nothing else. I was desperate.  I was back up to 153lbs, and panicking, so I went for it.   I cooked up some chicken breast, turkey breast, extra lean ground beef, broccoli, asparagus, and leafy green veggie mixes.   I also bought a bunch of egg whites.

 Saturday was the first day of the "fast" for me.  I ate hardly anything, I didn't have time, I trained for 3 hours and a bit in the morning, went home and showered, had a protein shake, then went to Toronto and trained some more. I think I ate about 400 calories, and I felt great.   Sunday was about the same, except we went for a hike at princess point, and I saw Iron Man 3.   I had more time to eat, I just wasn't hungry.   Throughout the week, I ate a bit more, having one or two shakes, and one or two small meals, and I trained hard Mon/Tues/Wed.    On Thursday, I was mad hungry, craving and wanting to eat everything in sight.   I think, at this point, it was more of a psychological thing, then anything else.  I was still feeling great!

This brings us to Friday, today, I weighed 148.5, (152.5 with all my crap).  I've made it!  Today was BBQ day at work, we tend to do a BBQ every Friday, or sometimes Thursdays if the weather is bad, or everyone is out of the office on Friday.  On the Menu, giant chili dogs, with a side of sun chips.   It smelled amazing, but looking at the food, I didn't even want it. I sat and ate my grilled turkey breast with leafy greens, and enjoyed it.  It wasn't as flavorful as a hotdog and sun chips would have been, but it sure was better for me.  

I hardly crave bread, pizza and ice-cream anymore.  I've found some recipes that I can really enjoy, like cauliflower crust for making pizza, and avocado smoothies, and almond flour based baked goods.   These delicious and far more nutritious options have kept me sane!  I still do look longingly at the ice-cream in the frozen food isle, but I don't ACTUALLY want it,  I'm not actually sure what it is,  but I've picked it up a few times, and put it back every time.  I'll have 1/2 an avocado, with cocoa, and a bit of stevia instead.

Some tasty treats I have made over the last few months:

I really can't eat gluten anymore, I feel pretty sick when I do,   I stole a bite of Jon's cheesy bread sticks (from Dominos, used to be my favorite cheap takeout), and felt like crap, for a day, and my joints got all swollen and whatnot.   I've embraced the lack of gluten and grains, and I don't see myself going back to it any time soon.   That being said,  once I get comfortably into middleweight (I am aiming for 145 or so (without my gi),  I plan on re-introducing some carbs,  like sweet potatoes pre-workout and things like that.   I love how my body runs on ketones, and how I have a steady source of fuel and don't get the afternoon fog, or need to eat insanely regularly. 

So, here I am,  the day before the Ontario Open,   1 year ago, I was 175lbs,  1.5 years ago I was 195,  and now, I am 148.5(well, I was this morning anyway).  It's not been an easy journey, but it’s been a great learning experience.   I really think that human bodies run better without grains then with.  From how I've felt, personally, vegetables, meat, and good old fashion fat are what really fuel your body.   I think that the general idea behind Paleo/Primal is a very solid lifestyle plan, and I'll be following it pretty closely.   The one thing I do have, and love, that isn't Paleo, and probably isn't good for me, is my sugar free coffee syrups. Oh man, they make everything so sweet and delish.

 Here is a chart of my weigh ins from, for the last year.
My weight loss, over the last year
  I wish it would let me go further back, but 1 year is the max.  As you can see,  I've had my ups and downs,  but, I'm pretty damn proud of myself for pulling this off.   According to my scale, I have about 22% body fat.  But, according to comparison pictures that float around the internet, I'm leaning more towards 18-20%.  If, I tell my scale I'm a guy, it says 15% lol.  It's weird the assumptions scales make about muscle and fat distribution.   When I hit 145, I am going to try to set up an appointment at Mac to use their BodPod.  It's a cool thing that measures your body, and tells you all sorts of interesting facts.   I wish I had taken some before pictures, at the very beginning of this journey, because then I'd have a good comparison.   When I hit 145 again, I'm going to get out that Vegas Bikini, and get Jon to take a pic of me in the same pose, and see how I look, 4 years later. 

So, there you have it.   Some nutritionist might not agree with my methods, a lot of people will be "There's no way I can give up ........."  But, if you are determined to do something, and you decide, in your mind, that you want it more than pizza, and more than ice-cream, you can do it.

If you want to talk about any of this, find me on FacebookMyfitnessPal, or reddit.   I wouldn't look to closely at my posts on reedit, especially those in r/xxketo,  there is a lot of stuff that could be considered TMI, and especially if you're a dude, it's stuff your probably just better off being oblivious to. 

My biggest piece of advice would be to prepare your meals in advanced, and don't have crap in the house.   It's really hard to cheat when you have nothing to cheat with.  Plan your order ahead of time when you are going out to eat, and keep healthy snacks and gum in your purse. 
right on the dot for middle weight

Up Next:  This weekend, the Ontario Open.  Then: WORLDS!!!!!!!!!!  I'm not really thinking about anything else right now.  


  1. Congrats on your journey and achievements!

    Pretty inspirational! ;)

    Your friends from /r/ketogains