FFFC: Please introduce yourself to our readers (i.e. your name, occupation, hobbies, etc.).
TH: My name is Tisha Harrell and I am a Probation Officer and a Life/Fitness coach. My hobbies include working out, outdoor activities, spending time with loved ones, and spending time alone (What can I say… I’m an introvert J )
FFFC: What sparked your weight-loss journey?
TH: First, I have to admit that I did not always have weight issues. As a child, I was always very thin and my metabolism was very high. My weight began to gradually increase when I was an undergrad in college. One day in my mid to late 20’s, I looked in the mirror and I no longer saw the flat stomach I always had. I still was not considered overweight so I didn’t put much thought into the weight gain. When I reached my mid 30’s, I realized I was beginning to purchase “cover-up” clothes in an attempt to conceal the body fat rolls that I had acquired. One day, I looked in the mirror and literally became physically sick to my stomach because I did not like what I saw. I realized that my unhealthy lifestyle consisting of being inactive and very bad eating habits had finally caught up with me. It was that day that I decided to take action and do something about my weight.
FFFC: What was your beginning and current weight and/or measurements?
TH: My highest weight was 170 lbs. I don’t know my body measurements but I was wearing a size 12 and quickly creeping into a size 14. My current weight is tricky because I’m a competitor. Being a competitor, my weight fluctuates depending on whether it’s “off season” or if I’m close to getting on stage. When I am close to getting on stage for competition, I am usually around 115 lbs. (wearing a size 2). Currently, I’m at 140 lbs. and I wear a size 6. Before I began to understand body composition and the proper way to lose weight, I got down to 140 lbs. but was mostly body fat and wearing a size 10-12. The reason I currently wear a size 6 at 140 lbs. is because my body composition is mostly muscle. This is the part a lot of people don’t understand. Body fat and muscle ratio makes a HUGE difference in the shape or your body and your body’s ability to burn fat.
FFFC: How long did it take for your weight-loss transformation from beginning to end?
TH: My journey took a little longer because in the beginning I was misinformed. I was stuck in the same mindset that I see a lot of people in: Cardio, cardio, cardio. I was attending boot camp classes (which are cardio no matter what fancy name the classes have) on a regular basis (4-5 days per week) and many times doing two consecutive classes. I did lose weight but I was not happy with how I looked. I had the “skinny fat” appearance and was still unhappy with my body. I later learned that doing so much cardio allowed me to burn fat, but I also burned muscle. I also got caught up in a few unhealthy diets such as low carb diets and a few others that only produced temporary results. My lowest “skinny fat” weight was approximately 135 lbs. but I quickly put some of the weight back on. I later discovered that the weight returned because I had lost so much muscle and did not have enough to burn fat. I started noticing how most of the people that attended boot camp classes never achieved any major results, and the few that did also fell into the “skinny fat” category. Therefore, I began educating myself on proper eating and weight training. Getting back to how long it took me to lose weight, I will say that it took me about 8 months to get to the “skinny fat” weight of approximately 135 lbs. After unintentionally putting some of the weight back on, and then learning the correct method of getting fit and healthy and changing my entire way of doing things, it took me about another year to get rid of the old body fat, build muscle, and then lean out to the point where I could compete at 115 lbs.
FFFC: What physical activities did you do during your journey?
TH: I started out doing boot camp classes because I thought this was the best method. After I learned that cardio is not the best method, I began weight training, I cut down on the cardio substantially, and I began CONSISTENTLY eating healthy.
FFFC: How did your eating habits change?
TH: I began eating every 2 ½ to 3 hours and I learned to incorporate and balance the correct nutrients into my diet. I weighed and measured all of my meals, including the condiments I used, and I kept a food journal of everything I put into my body. I completely eliminated the sugary drinks (Juices, soda, etc…) and increased my water intake to a gallon a day. I removed the junk foods from my normal daily intake and only ate those foods as treats. I don’t believe in deprivation. I believe in learning the appropriate way to treat yourself to the unhealthy food items and to not overdo it when you do eat them.
FFFC: What do you typically eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
TH: This is a loaded question because it all depends on what season I’m in (competition vs. off season). Depending on the season, my overall daily caloric intake and nutrients will differ. During my off season, I will take in more calories because I am usually putting on muscle. During competition season, I slightly lower my calories (but not too much). I still eat every 2 ½ to 3 hours but my meals vary. The best way I can explain my meals is that I make sure I take in the appropriate amount of protein, good fats, and complex carbs in each meal in amounts that are best for my body and goals.
FFFC: What is your favorite fitness activity?
TH: Weight training!!!! Is there anything else? LOL! But seriously, weight training not only adds needed muscle to the body, but it is the most effective method in burning fat if done appropriately.
FFFC: What do you do now to maintain your physique?
TH: Consistently eat healthy, workout, drink at least a gallon of water every day, and understand that the junk foods cannot be a part of my normal diet.
FFFC: What inspired you to compete on stage? And how did you do?
TH: I was approached about competing by a former trainer. At that time, I knew I wasn’t ready to get on stage and I didn’t have any knowledge about competitive bodybuilding. Therefore, I decided to attend a show and after doing so, I knew that working to get on stage would help me reach my fitness goals and become better educated. I had no desire to win trophies or even continue with competing, but after my first show in October 2012, I fell in love with the sport. I did three consecutive shows and walked away with 5 trophies, including a first place and overall placing.
FFFC: How did you develop and sustain the willpower to avoid the bad stuff (i.e. junk food, bad drinks, lack of activity, etc.)?
TH: It completely boiled down to changing and strengthening my mindset. I convinced myself that I didn’t need the junk foods and that I needed to stay active. Once I began actually believing this, my mind would not allow me to quit. I also had to allow my body to “detox” from the unhealthy foods. It was very hard in the beginning but I never gave in to the temptations because I conditioned my mind to be stronger than the temptations. After a few weeks, I no longer had the strong cravings for the junk foods. I always tell people that you have to allow yourself a few weeks to about a month to break the bad habits and develop new, healthy habits. And again, it’s 100% mental!
FFFC: What advice do you have for someone starting out on their weight-loss journey but unsure of how to begin?
TH: First and foremost, you have to change your mindset and believe you are capable of achieving your fitness goals. Too many times I hear people say, “I can’t”. As long as you tell yourself that you can’t, you won’t. Secondly, you have to set realistic goals. Don’t set a goal to lose a ridiculous amount of weight in a short amount of time. Getting fit and healthy is a timely process. Educate yourself on the proper way to get fit and healthy. There are so many companies that target people who want the easy way to losing weight by offering diet scams that promise quick and easy fat loss. You probably will lose weight (in a very unhealthy way) but you will more than likely put the weight back on and possibly more. And you are putting your health at risk by going on these ridiculous diets. Stay away from the diets and learn to eat healthy and stay active. Keep in mind that there is no cookie-cutter method of getting fit and healthy. Every person has different needs and goals, so don’t expect one person’s method to work for you. Most importantly, NEVER starve yourself! Your body needs food to function properly.
FFFC: What do you think is the biggest misconception about this journey?
TH: I believe the biggest misconception is that people believe that they can continue eating unhealthy as long as they do a lot of cardio. Or, people just don’t consistently eat healthy. Consistently eating healthy is 80% of getting fit and healthy. Another misconception that has to be mentioned is that people don’t understand that eating healthy and working out is a lifestyle, not temporary actions that you quit once you reach a goal.
FFFC: Do you have any fitness idols? Who are they?
TH: I prefer not to use the word “idol”. I prefer fitness inspirations. I have so many fitness inspirations, it is probably too many to name. But I will mention one person who I admire and have always inspired me to stay strong mentally. Muhammad Ali!!! I was never completely inspired by his physical athleticism, even though he is one of the greatest in my book. But I have always been more inspired by his ability to influence people mentally. He told the world that he was the greatest and people believed it. Anyone who has the ability to have that much mental influence on the world gets my highest respect. Even physically, he always pushed himself through very intense training methods. Bruce Lee is another one my great inspirations. He proved that it’s not about physical strength, but instead, a strong mindset and technique that truly matters. But I am inspired by anyone that puts in the hard work and stay dedicated to their fitness goals. I have been more inspired by a few of my personal training clients than anyone well-known.
FFFC: How can readers learn more about your transformation, journey and any future competitions online (i.e. Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc.)?
TH: They can “LIKE” my Facebook fitness page, Designed Health and Fitness or follow me on Instagram at TISHA324. I can also be reached for life/fitness coaching services via email at [email protected]