About Alana

The Beginning of our IVF (ICSI) Journey.

 

We have definitely had some ups and downs in our trying to conceive journey. After trying for a year, and not using any form of contraceptive for almost 2 years – we knew it was time to get help.

Last week we had our first appointment with Dr David Moore, a fertility specialist from Eve Health. He looked at our previous test results and we had further testing – including an ultrasound. In the ultrasound, he counted my follicles and there were a LOT. (For those who are unfamiliar, follicles are fluid filled sacs, in which an egg develops. At ovulation, the ‘dominant’ follicle, will release an egg to be fertilised… so having a lot of follicles essentially means there should be a lot of eggs).

We also went through our history and I explained that after having ammonorehea due to low body weight last year, my periods had returned in January. They are somewhat irregular, but through temp tracking, symptoms and positive ovulation tests – I am ovulating – it’s just happening a bit later than usual. Dr Moore seemed to think it didn’t really matter that I’m ovulating later – as long as it’s happening – however, MY irregular cycles (combined with male factor issues) means that our odds of conceiving ‘naturally’ are very low. He said that whilst we could potentially conceive naturally, it could take 3, 5, 10 years – it’s hard to say.. If you’ve ever tried to conceive or if you have struggled with infertility – then you’ll know the feeling of wanting to be pregnant YESTERDAY – not in months or years. He suggested we go ahead with IVF with ‘ICSI’ where sperm will be directly injected into my eggs – starting as early as next month!

Nervous but excited, we got the relevant quotes and booked our information session with Queensland Fertility Group. Today we had that information session.

How did it go? Overwhelming. Terrifying. I could have cried after I was such a mixed bag of emotions.

I don’t think many people really know what IVF involves because it’s usually quite a private thing. I did a fair bit of research, but having the actual appointment and feeling the reality of it all sink in was quite challenging.

Here’s the general gist of what’s going to happen… Over the next month I will have to do self-injections of hormones to stimulate egg growth, these injections will be often – sometimes twice a day, and othertimes at very specific set times (think waking up at 3am to inject yourself in the stomach, nice!).

I’ll also have to go into the clinic every few days for scans and blood tests to track how my follicles are going. Once my follicles look ‘ready’ I will have day surgery to retrieve my eggs. Although it is only day surgery, there are risks – and there is a risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, which is pretty intense!

Following egg retrieval, the lab will fertilise my eggs to create embryos. These embryos are then monitored closely for 5 days and at the end of the 5 days, provided the ‘conditions’ are correct (i.e my uterine lining is thick enough, hormones are OK etc) an embryo transfer will take place and the remaining embryos will be frozen. After embryo transfer, I’ll have to supplement with progesterone (which she said can cause me to be quite emotional/depressed) and then we’ll have to wait for two weeks to see if the cycle has resulted pregnancy.

Obviously, not every cycle is successful and after a long financial, physical and mental investment – we have to be prepared for that too. The nurse did say our success rate would be roughly 50%, which is much higher than our odds now, and if we don’t try – we’ll never know.

I don’t doubt that the next few months will be challenging for me. More challenging than anything I have done. I’ve already adjusted my training and diet to make my body ‘pregnancy friendly’ and I’d say I will be taking training even easier and potentially only walk post embryo transfer. If I could wrap myself in bubble wrap post transfer – I’d probably do it.

When I left the information session today this is what I honestly thought – “I don’t know if I can do this”. A good friend of mine reminded me that I AM mentally strong. She’s right. I have done SO many things in my life that I once thought were impossible – and this is the next.

The Cost of Competing

I recently read a post circling on Facebook called ‘the cost of competing’. The article spoke about the total financial costs of competing in bodybuilding competitions – including things like bikini, hair, makeup, shoes, tan, coach fees, competition registration fees, posing lessons, photography etc.. As a competitor, the article was no surprise to me. I spent a small fortune on competing and it is no doubt an expensive hobby..

The article, however, got me thinking.. the financial costs of competing are pretty clear – but what about the non-financial costs?

Competing is often glamourised on social media. We see the shiny bikini, the beautiful hair and makeup, the amazing physiques… But we don’t often see the behind the scenes sacrifices. In my opinion, competing is so much more than ‘dieting and training’. I remember my coach Andrew Deasy once said something along the lines of ‘competing will become your life, but it must not take over your life’.

Obviously, the ‘cost’ and sacrifices of competition prep will vary wildly between competitors.. but I thought I would list three of the negative impacts that the process had on my personal life. As a side note: I loved competing and for me, the positives far outweighed the negatives – but I think it is important that if you are considering competing, you consider ALL of the costs. If you are competing simply for a photo or two to post, or because you believe it will fix your body image issues – you are wrong.

1. Relationships
Whilst competing did introduce me to many new friends, it also dampened (and even ended) some of my existing relationships. One relationship in particular was my relationship with my fiancé. Whilst we have had many testing times including my struggle with depression and our previous ‘FIFO’ lifestyle our most testing times were experienced during my competition preparations. Why? Well, I couldn’t pinpoint it to one particular factor, but rather,  a number of factors at play.. for example:

  • It’s hard to be a happy, sociable person when you are exhausted from dieting and training
  • I could barely find the energy to get through my training and work commitments, let alone find the energy to get through my portion of household chores.. causing tension/bitterness about the distribution of our workload
  • Dieting reduces your libido
  • Many competitors suffer from negative body image – I once wrote that comp prep, in summary, was being in the BEST shape of your life, but believing you are in your worst.. Half the time, even if I DID have the energy to go somewhere, I felt very self conscious and didn’t enjoy myself
  • Social Freedom is affected – simple things like going away for the weekend or dinner dates become ten times harder when you are restricted with your food or have set commitments like training/posing practice

When it was happening, we didn’t discuss it. We both knew it was an issue and that things weren’t right, but I was too focused on my competition to worry about my relationship – and so I let it be. After my first competition, Mitch was so happy. It was finally over… or so we thought. I made the decision to do another season.  Whilst we could afford it, as mentioned above, it isn’t cheap. Mitch was really against me stepping on stage again. I remember saying to my mum, and this is no word of a life… If Mitch says I can’t compete – I will leave him.

Competing had become more important to me than my relationship.

I feel that summarises my mental space at the time. It also shows that whilst I listened to my coaches advice about ‘not letting it become your entire life’ that I was not actively doing so. Obviously, I’m very glad that things didn’t go that way. If they had, I’d be very lonely right now with nothing to show for it – except for a sparkly trophy and a few pictures of that time I almost had abs. Mitch, who is not a patient person, exercised great patience with me, and I am thankful that our relationship is currently the best it has ever been – despite the rockiness of last year.

2. Body Image
As I mentioned above, competing really does impact your body image. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel completely comfortable in my skin again. I have hundreds of photos of my extremely lean physique, many of which I did not post because I honestly believed I was ‘fat’. On one particular occasion, I cried because I believed I had gained weight. I had my check-in with my coach the next day and I was desperately trying to find an excuse to avoid going. Guess what? I lost TWO KILOS that week. Not only was my body image totally negative… it was also totally wrong. Many women message me under the belief that if they achieve their goal body, they will finally be happy. Unfortunately, body image is totally mental. You could have the best body in the world and be totally miserable about it – likewise, you could have the worst body in the world and think you are beautiful. Competing will not fix your body image, but it does have the potential to make it worse.

3. Health
My friend Courtney has never understood why bodybuilding competitions are referred to as ‘Fitness’ competitions. Fit? By the time we were due to get on stage – we were anything but fit.

When I was competing I was looked up to as an image of ‘health’. At the same time, I was consuming a ridiculous amount of chemicals from sugar free ‘diet’ products and a very excessive amount caffeine. I was so fatigued. I was eating very low calories and completing 12 training sessions per week. I could barely manage to lift my usual weight and I weighed a measly 52kgs. Yes, competition preparations can be done in a healthy way – and honestly, mine was done as healthily as I could possibly manage.. (no foods were restricted and I was still doing less training than some of the horror stories I have heard)… BUT for me (and for most women) a low body fat percentage and health do NOT go hand in hand.

Other than a reduced libido, competition preparation can wreak havoc on your hormones. I’ve wrote quite honestly about the fact that my menstrual cycles stopped completely during this time. In fact, I was without a period for over a year. Whilst my period has finally returned, my cycles are still very irregular. My liver and kidney aren’t functioning to their full potential and I’m also deficient in a number of vitamins/minerals. For a sport that promotes ‘health’, it is not very healthy.

My advice is this.. If you want to compete, please be aware of ALL of the costs. Yes, the bikini, the heels, the tan and the registration fees are very expensive – but the mental and physical costs are, in my opinion, far more important considerations..

For Sustainable, Balanced Nutritional and Training guidelines, email me: alana@gmff.com.au

Macro-Friendly Breakfast Porridge with Flavour Options: Gingerbread, Salted Caramel, Cherry Ripe, Chocolate Peanut Butter

This is a breakfast I had almost religiously throughout my competition preparation, and one I still have at least a few times a week. Why? Because it’s relatively low in macros, has a tonne of VOLUME and of course, it’s delicious!

So, what is the secret ingredient in this macro-friendly, filling, delicious breakfast?  Well, as uncomfortable as this feels to write.. it’s… Zucchini.

Yep. The ever-elusive Zucchini. I feel like I really overlooked Zucchini in the past.. So I can totally imagine some of your thoughts right now… Maybe you’re thinking ‘that’s fucking disgusting’ or ‘this bitch is high’ or even something less-explicit like ‘I think I’ll stick with toast’ – but please, hear me out. I used to feel just the same as you, trust me.. But when you’re a starving bikini competitor on limited calories, you learn to make ANYTHING work. There’s literally thousands of Bikini Competitors right now adding Zucchini to everything they eat.. Zucchini and Oats, Zucchini and Bolognese, Zucchini and Air, Zucchini and Tears, Zucchini and Zucchini.. yeah, okay.. I think you get my drift. I’ve posted the recipe below with a range of flavour ideas including Gingerbread, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Cherry Ripe. Give it a go and let me know what you think!

Zucchini Porridge
Gingerbread Flavour Macronutrient Breakdown
Protein: 13 Grams Carbohydrates: 30 Grams Fat: 7 Grams

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What you’ll need:

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  • 20 Grams Quick Cook Oats
  • 20 Grams Quinoa Flakes (Optional – you can use ALL oats, but I find a mix of Quinoa and Oats gives more volume than just oats alone – plus, oats are slightly higher in fat than Quinoa, and Quinoa slightly higher in carbohydrates – so having a mix helps to even out the macronutrient intake overall
  • 70 Grams Raw Zucchini, Grated
  • 5 Grams Black Chia Seeds
  • 5 Grams Nut Butter
  • 5 Grams Protein Powder, Flavour/Brand of Choice
  • 20 Grams Berries or Fruit of Choice (Fresh or Frozen)

Adjustments

Although I’ve used very specific amounts, the dish can be easily altered. Lately I have been having eggs before or afterwards, which is why I have been using less protein powder. To increase the protein amount, you can add anywhere from 5 grams – 30 grams of protein powder. I wouldn’t drop to any less than 5 grams of Chia Seeds or Almond Butter, but you are totally welcome to swap Almond Butter for any of your favourite Nut Butters! The Almond Butter and Chia Seeds help to thicken the porridge which, along with the Zucchini, creates volume. In the Warmer Months, I’ll often add a dash of Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk to cool this dish down!

Flavour Variations

This dish can have a variety of flavours, these are some of my favourites:

Gingerbread: Almond Butter, Vanilla Protein Powder, Cinnamon, Ground Ginger, Blueberries
Salted Caramel: Cashew Butter, Vanilla Protein Powder, Maca or Mesquite, Agave Nectar (Optional), Sliced Banana
Chocolate Peanut Butter: Peanut Butter, Chocolate Protein Powder OR Vanilla Protein Powder + Cacao, Mixed Berries
Cherry Ripe: Coconut, Chocolate Protein Powder OR Vanilla Protein Powder + Cacao, Cherries

To Make:

Step One: Combine Oats, Quinoa, Chia Seeds and Grated Zucchini in a small pot, and cover with water

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Step Two: Place on a hot stove and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, place Nut Butter, Protein Powder plus whatever else you’ll need for your flavour choice, excluding fruit, into a bowl. In my case, Vanilla Protein Powder, Almond Butter, Ginger and Cinnamon.

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Step Three: Once boiling, reduce to medium heat and allow to simmer. Stir through Protein Powder and Nut Butter mix. Continue to Simmer until thick and creamy.

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Okay, I know it doesn’t look too pretty – but you’ll have to trust me.

Step Four:  Transfer to a bowl and top with Fruit of Choice.

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Step Five: Take a photo of your delicious porridge in excellent lighting for Instagram… hashtag.. #cleaneating #fitpso

17036162_1506443049368719_719678575_oWell, that’s more or less it. If you enjoy this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @goodmoodfitnessandfood to let me know, or share this post with your friends!

Confused about Nutrition or Training? Send me an email: alana@gmff.com.au

An Introduction..

One can have experienced great tragedy, and not be tragic. Being happy in the face of great sadness is the best revenge for being made to endure it.

If you’re reading this you’re probably wondering… who the fuck is this bitch? And why the fuck would I want to read her blog?

I kind of like my use of swearing to start my first ever blog post because it sets the scene for what’s to come. You can expect (as my Instagram Bio currently reads) a brutal, honest account of my life – food, fitness, body image, relationships – and everything else in between.

If you managed to get this far, you’re probably still wondering who the fuck is this bitch? And why the fuck would I want to read her blog?

I’m Alana, a Personal Trainer and Online Coach based in Brisbanes’ Bayside. I live with my fiancé, Mitchell and my two fur-babies, Lilly and Tasha. I am creative and I love to cook. I’m an off-season Bikini Competitor adjusting to my not-so-shredded ‘fluffy’ physique. I am very open and honest and tend to over-share. But.. I think to really understand who I am now – you need to understand who I was.

3-4 years ago, I struggled with serious depression. I started to see a psychologist and I was prescribed anti-depressants. They changed my life, temporarily.

My depression yo-yo’d almost as much as my Health and Fitness and before I knew it – I’d gained 20kgs. I remember looking in the mirror one morning and thinking, holy shit, when the hell did this happen? It was at this point I noticed the strong correlation between my Mental and Physical State. Whenever I ate like shit (and I mean, eating-a-few-packets-of-two-minute-noodles-for-breakfast-shit) and avoided exercise – I was miserable. I was trying to fill a void in my life with food, and when nothing changed, I would eat more – as though by some miracle maybe this time it would fix something.

After a discussion about this with my psychologist I created an Instagram Account – Good Mood Fitness and Food. My goal was simple – to improve my mental and physical health through food and exercise. I had no idea that one day, I would have the opportunity to help women all over the world to do the same. Today, the account has close to 10,000 followers who have watched my life unfold over the last few years. They have seen me transition from a ‘clean eater’ to a ‘macro counter’. They have watched me transition from ‘cardio’ to ‘weights’. They’ve seen my body change from 20kgs overweight – to a teeny tiny bikini competitor – and now, they are watching as I try to find a comfortable body somewhere in between.

So… who the fuck is this bitch? I guess we’ll find out.