Note from Molly: Today’s post is by my buddy, Tony Gentilcore, who wants to share exactly how he has helped hundreds of women achieve their goals of nailing pull-ups and chin-ups. He’s also going to share some very exciting news with you, so make sure you read through to the end! Take it away, Tony!

tonycoachingafemale-321x359I’ve worked with hundreds of women throughout my career as a personal trainer and strength & conditioning coach. I’ve always prided myself on maintaining an agnostic approach when it comes to their training and their goals, and remaining conscientious that the entire process is about them, not me.

Their training. Their goals.

Whether the goal is to “lose a little fat,” or “to tone up,” or “to deadlift a bulldozer,” I’ll run with the punches and write a program that caters to that goal.

However, I’m a tad selfish. Almost always, whenever I start working with a female client, especially if she’s a beginner, I’ll plant the seed into her head that one of my goals for her is to perform a strict, un-assisted chin-up or pull-up.

This is often (not always) met with a deer-in-the-headlights look. Many women hear me say that and immediately start doubting themselves. Some think of it as some insurmountable task like, I don’t know, climbing Mordor or dragging their significant other to the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey sequel.

It’s not lost on me why many women view the chin-up or pull-up as daunting or as something they couldn’t possibly accomplish.

Two Reasons Why Women Think They Can’t

1. Women are socialized and engendered at a young age to think they’re weaker. Part of this mindset that women can’t do chin-ups or pull-ups is rooted in this. All we have to do is recall those old-school National Fitness Tests our gym teachers had us perform in Elementary and High School.

The boys performed chin-ups.

The girls performed the flexed-arm hang—because, you know, they’re girls.

They were told, “You’re a girl. You don’t have the upper body strength to do a pull-up/chin-up, so here’s what you’ll do instead.”


2. The same message continues into adulthood. Many women are told that part of being a woman is being weaker than men.

Girls and women are led to believe that there are such things as “girl exercises” or “girl machines” or “girl workout areas.”  How often do you witness a personal trainer coaching clients through progressions or regressions to conquer the chin-up or pull-up? It happens, of course… but it’s the exception, not the rule. Usually what ends up happening is some lame attempt at lat pulldowns—and that’s it.

By adulthood many women have had over fifteen years of being told, “Meh, you can’t do it, so lets do this instead.” And it sucks.

Setting a New Tone


Starting with a new female client on Day #1 I begin the process of helping her recognize the power of embracing performance-based goals… like hitting a strict, un-assisted chin-up or pull-up.

This isn’t meant to discount any of the more aesthetics-based goals she may be aspiring for. However, I’ve found that when it comes to the amount of hard work, effort, and sweat that goes into finally nailing that first chin-up or pull-up, all the aesthetic goals many women strive for— looking good in a bikini, wedding dress, what have you—well, that part just kinda, sorta, happen.

And none of this speaks to the sense of empowerment and “fuck yeah-ness” that accompanies it. It’s always amazing for me as a coach to see the switch flip and witness the excitement that follows.

So, the Secret… What Is It?

Here it is…

If you want to hit your first chin-up or pull-up you can’t make the mistake of only working at it once or twice a week. It’s better than nothing, but will take forever. You must figure out a way to do so, at minimum, four or five times per week.

You can accomplish this with a combination of several approaches:

  1. Floor-based drills to help build full-body tension and context (Hollow Body Position and progressions, push-ups, roll-out variations)
  2. Drills hanging from a chin-up/pull-up bar (learning how to hang properly, bent knees raises, straight leg raises, flexed-arm hangs).
  3. Rowing and vertical pulling variations using the TRX.
  4. Chin-up and pull-up variations (band-assisted, eccentric only, etc).


YES. The secret to getting better at chin-ups and pull-ups—whether it’s to perform your first one, or to perform several—is to train them more frequently.

I just blew your mind, I know.

It’s important, though, to recognize that for a  lot of women (and men, too), the key is to help build context and to understand that while you can’t train actual chin-ups and pull-ups every time, there are plenty of other options available. Check out this video below where I walk you through several of those options.



Note from Molly: did you love that video as much as I did? If so, you’re going to absolutely LOVE Tony and Dean Somerset’s new Complete Hip and Shoulder Blueprint. The CHS is a brand-new resource that contains:

– 11 hours of video content through digital download
– both theory and application including specific shoulder work for overhead athletes and random meatheads
– detailed explanation about the individual differences of hips, how to fine tune your squat and deadlift set up, and how to improve your assessment and training programs
– 1.1 continuing education credits provided through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
– 60 day money back guarantee

The Complete Hip and Shoulder Blueprint is your go-to resource for learning anything and everything you need to know about hips and shoulders (and core and squats and deadlifts and basically everything else that you want to know about! AND it’s on sale for now through midnight Saturday, November 5th.  For more info, click HERE.



Note from Molly: Today’s post is by my good friend, Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake, AKA JVB, who wants to share some important lessons she has learned since she started competing and coaching in powerlifting. She’s also going to share some very exciting news with you, so make sure you read through to the end!




I’ll never forget how I felt the night before my first powerlifting meet.




I was packing my bag for the next morning while my daughter was sitting on the bed, surrounded by all manner of gym attire, and we were chatting. To be certain, she was doing all the talking, as is her way. I listened with most of an ear while I tossed in my gear: Chucks? Check. Tall socks? (Bright green, no less.) Check. Singlet? Check.


Nerves? Check, check, check.


I was 36 years old and tomorrow would be my first time competing in a sporting event, ever.


I can still hear the sound of her voice as I moved about the room, folding and refolding, checking my packing list and checking it again, and I remember thinking: Does she see me right now? Can she tell I’m quaking a bit in my boots?


I hope she does, I thought, and I hope she sees me decide to keep going forward anyway.


I hope tomorrow when she sees me on the platform it will sink into her ever-growing brain that the very best adventures in life are the ones borne out of bravery.


I zipped up my bag, tossed it on the floor, and flopped down on the bed to chat with her for real before it was time for bed.


Photo credit: Melissa Floyd

Photo credit: Melissa Floyd


The next day, I stood to the side of the platform, hands on hips, game face on. (Lucky for me my nervous face looks a lot like a game face.) I was shifting slowly from one leg to the other, visualizing myself nailing this first squat attempt, my first-ever foray into an athletic competition.  I heard the judge shout out:


“Bar’s loaded!”


It was my turn. I strode onto the platform and placed my hands on the bar, getting ready to duck under and get into position. The head judge was sitting directly in front of me and behind him, was a crowd of over a hundred people.


It felt like a million.


It was quiet in the room, not much louder than the dull buzz of people talking amongst themselves, but I could feel all eyes on me. I stepped forward, ducked my head under the bar, wiggling my shoulders to where I wanted them, and stood up tall.


“Goooooo, MOMMMYYYYY!!!” came the rallying cry.


It was my girl. I knew she could see me. I took a deep breath, braced, and descended.



Trying New Things Makes Strong Really Fun


I hope I never forget that story, and am happy to have a record of it here so that I won’t. Even though this was my first meet, I was not exactly new to lifting, nor to the strength training game in general. At that point I had been a personal trainer for six years and was working as a strength coach at The Movement Minneapolis, but this experience drove home what it felt like to try something new again.


I’m still at Movement, and I coach our members and my own personal clients on how to use strength training to create a strong, happily functional body every day. I do the same for our powerlifting team, with the strong part geared more specifically to the competition lifts. A lot of what they learn is new at first, and a because of that, also a little scary at first.


Side story: We had a member a couple of years ago, a wickedly funny woman who would say, “That looks Scary Larry!” when shown a new move, and it’s a phrase that I repeat often today because it’s funny, and funny always trumps scary.


Besides being a coach at Movement, I’m also the first point of contact for anyone that wants to join our gym. They meet with me one-on-one or in a small group so we can discuss their goals and I can show them what we’re all about. I get to meet many different people from all walks of life and experience levels, but I think those who are completely new to lifting weights are the bravest, and I tell them so.


While my gym is home to me, to a potentially new member the sound of clanging plates, crashing bars, and whoops of celebration may be foreign. And there is absolutely nothing better than seeing the looks on the faces of the ones who decide it will be their home, too, that they will revel in learning new things.


The revelry is the same with our powerlifters, it’s just that their PRs are set on the platform.


Jen Sinkler celebrating with a Movement Minneapolis teammate.  / Photo credit: Melissa Floyd

Jen Sinkler celebrating with a Movement Minneapolis teammate. / Photo credit: Melissa Floyd


That’s what it comes back to, right? Strong is fun, I’ve said from the start. I took home a medal in that first competition, and two more since. I’ve consistently set PRs in every meet and am now ranked number one for the barbell back squat in the Minnesota USA Powerlifting Federation.


Yes, the medals are cool, and I just might carry all of them around as totems in my gym bag, but that’s not really my point:


The point is you don’t know how awesome you can be unless you’re willing to give it a shot. And don’t you want to know?


These are the four most important lessons I’ve learned since I started competing and coaching powerlifting. And I want you to turn around and use that info to do the damn thing — to take the leap.


A member of Team Green killing her first powerlifting meet. / Photo credit: Melissa Floyd

A member of Team Green killing her first powerlifting meet. / Photo credit: Melissa Floyd


Lesson #1: Pretty Much Anyone Can Do It


Take a second and think: what do you think a powerlifter looks like? While acknowledging the fact that I’m painting in pretty broad strokes, I’ll bet some of you pictured 1) a man; 2) a very, very large man; 3) a very, very large man, maybe with a beard, in a singlet, with veins popping and eyeballs bulging, as he deadlifts a bar loaded down with what looks like every weight plate in the gym on each side.


This mental imagery, in reality, makes up a very small percentage of powerlifters, but that’s often what we think of because those are the powerlifters everyone is talking about, sharing videos of, and posting photos of.


The truth is a powerlifter looks just like me. And you. Here’s how it all breaks down:


How Strong Do You Have To Be To Compete?


Photo credit: Martin Rittenberry

Photo credit: Martin Rittenberry


I reached out Joe Warpeha, Minnesota state chairman for the USAPL Federation to get the answer to this question, to find out the absolute minimum amount of weight a competitor needs to be strong enough to lift in a powerlifting meet. This is what he had to say:


“The minimum on any lift is an empty bar plus collars. So, 55 pounds or 25 kilograms is the minimum weight.”


According to the rules of the USAPL you don’t even need to lift a bar with plates on it to compete. It’s important to note, however, that deadlifting an empty bar from the floor can make getting into a neutral spine, hips-below-the-shoulders deadlift position extremely difficult. Fifteen-kilogram plates are the lightest plates that bring the bar to a more ideal position — roughly nine inches off the floor — and the weight to a total of 55 kilos, or 121 pounds.


If that’s not you yet, then there you have it: goal number one.


How Old Do You Need To Be To Compete?


To head you off the tl;dr at the pass: You can compete in powerlifting from the age of 14 on up (seriously up, there are women in their 60s, 70s, and 80s competing in powerlifting), and you can also leverage your age by competing in more than one weight class to increase your chances of setting records and medaling.


But if you want the nitty-gritty, here are the rules from the International Powerlifting Federation (IPL) Technical Rulebook:


Women’s Open: “From the day she reaches 14 years and upwards (no category restrictions need apply).”


Sub-Junior: “From the day she reaches 14 years and throughout the full calendar year in which she reaches 18 years.”


Junior: “From 1 January in the calendar year she reaches 19 years and throughout the full calendar year in which she reaches 23 years.”


Master I: “From 1 January in the calendar year she reaches 40 years and throughout the full calendar year in which she reaches 49 years.”


Master II: “From 1 January in the calendar year she reaches 50 years and throughout the full calendar year in which she reaches 59 years.”


How Much Do You Need to Weigh To Compete?


This one is easy! You can weigh absolutely anything, my dears. Lifters in powerlifting meets are divided into weight classes because placing and medaling is by your bodyweight relative to the amount of weight you lift.


47.0 kg Class: Up to 47.0 kg (103.4 pounds)

52.0 kg Class: From 47.01 kg up to 52.0 kg (103.42–114.4 pounds)

57.0 kg Class: From 52.01 kg up to 57.0 kg (114.42–125.4 pounds)

63.0 kg Class: From 57.01 kg up to 63.0 kg (125.42–138.6 pounds)

72.0 kg Class: From 63.01 kg up to 72.0 kg (138.62–158.4 pounds)

84.0 kg Class: From 72.01 kg up to 84.0 kg (158.42–184.8 pounds)

84.0+ kg Class: From 84.01 kg up to unlimited  (184.82 and up)


When you first begin lifting in powerlifting meets, the weight class only matters as a category for entry. Cutting weight to get to a lower weight class or adding mass to get to the top of your current weight class (or to go a class higher), are things you can choose to worry about down the road if you wish, once you’ve built up your strength and technique and decide you want to get more competitive.


Or, you can keep competing in powerlifting and not give weight classes a second thought, and that perfectly fine, too.  At end of the day, what really matters is setting your own PRs on the platform, not what number comes up on the scale.


Movement Minneapolis team members offering each other encouragement and support.  /  Photo credit: Martin Rittenberry

Movement Minneapolis team members offering each other encouragement and support. / Photo credit: Martin Rittenberry


Lesson #2: Powerlifting Is a Welcoming Community


I didn’t quite know what I was getting into for my first powerlifting meet and in hindsight, that may have been a blessing.


When I arrived and approached the check-in table, the meet judge manning the table checked my gear, had me sign my life away on a few sheets of paper, then handed me a card with my name on it and said, “Write your opening attempts and rack heights on this and give it to the woman (another meet judge) who does your weigh-in.”


Ummmmm, rack heights? Panic. Immediately I picture the rack, a medieval torture device, that uses pulleys and ropes to stretch a person so far it tears their limbs off. This can’t be what he meant, right?


  1. My imagination really needs to take a chill pill sometimes.
  2. Powerlifting meets use an adjustable rack for squats and bench press (no rack needed for deadlifts, natch), and I needed to determine my rack heights so that the meet volunteers would know how high to set it for those two particular lifts.


It turns out powerlifting meets are quite luxurious and everything from rack heights to plates are adjusted and loaded for you. It’s like having your own personal pit crew, and it’s the best.


What I quickly learned is that powerlifting meets are, on the whole, very well-staffed, and the volunteers and judges are on the lookout for lost-looking people like I was at that first meet. An angel I had never before met swooped in and guided me through the process before sending me off to weigh-ins, and that’s a scene I see repeated over and over again at meets — except now sometimes it’s me taking a moment to guide the new and lost-looking lifter. You gotta pay it forward, you know?


Also worth noting: you will have a cheer squad of strangers every time you approach the platform. The announcer calls out the name of each lifter when it’s their turn and everyone, from the audience to the spotters and the other lifters, will cheer when you go up to lift, shout and encourage you through the lift, and applaud after you’ve finished, no matter the outcome.


Lesson #3: It Gives Your Training Purpose


This is so, so clutch. Training for powerlifting (even if you choose not to compete) gives your workout a bit more heft and meaning: what was once a “workout” is now a “training session.”


Because of that sense of purpose, following a training plan for powerlifting will improve your consistency, the stuff PRs are made of. You’re accountable to the training plan because now you have strength goals that you are strongly motivated to achieve. There is nothing quite like seeing three white lights shining brightly, letting you know that your hard work and dedication led you to a successful attempt on competition day.


(FYI, in a meet there are three red and three white lights. Red lights indicate the lift was “no good,” and white lights mean a “good” lift. For a lift to count, a lifter must earn two out of three white lights.)


Powerlifting programs focus on improving the competition lifts: the back squat, bench press, and deadlift. Training days often have a focus on the main lift and include what’s called “accessory” or “supportive” exercises that strengthen the muscles worked in the competition lift. Training frequency can be from three to six days a week (I’m a big fan of about four), and sessions typically last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes.


A great training program won’t just have you lifting heavy every day, but will wave training volume and intensity to maximize muscle adaptation and avoid burnout. Powerlifting can be a grind, but it really doesn’t have to be. Paying attention to how a lift feels in real time and making adjustments as needed, emphasizing technique instead of letting your ego tell you how much weight to put on the bar, and making the most out of your recovery days will go a long way toward keeping your body healthy, strong, and injury-free.


From the above, you can see that training for powerlifting removes a lot of chaff. It has one main focus: strength. There is no hype about fat loss, six-pack abs, or losing that last ten pounds. In fact, the intention is to gain—strength, specifically—and to consistently move forward, step by step, towards your goals.


A member of Team Green making sure everyone knew she just PR’d HUGE.  /  Photo credit: Martin Rittenberry

A member of Team Green making sure everyone knew she just PR’d HUGE. / Photo credit: Martin Rittenberry


Lesson #4: Let’s Admit It, It’s Pretty Awesome


I mean, right?


Strong is fun for many reasons, and one of them is that there is something almost primal about using your whole body to move a heavy weight. Your focus must narrow and there can only be one objective: to succeed.


Women are showing up to the gym in droves, and I know it’s because they feel it: the desire for physical expression through strength. Powerlifting is the perfect outlet for that because there is no end game, there’s only better. And better, and better.


When you feel strong, you feel capable. When you feel capable, you have the mental and emotional freedom to take the chance on trying new things. Trying new things leads to new and fun adventures and you accomplishing things you never before thought possible.


And that right there, is the whole point of the thing. It’s everything.


Now to quote my little girl: Let’s goooooo!





Unapologetically Powerful is here!


Are you ready to become Unapologetically Powerful? If you’re even just a little bit interested in improving your back squat, bench press, and deadlift, and building lean, beautiful muscle, you’re going to love digging into this program.


Unapologetically Powerful is your go-to resource to learning all about the “big three” lifts, and removes any intimidation from training for and competing, should you decide to, in the sport of powerlifting.


Trainers Jen Sinkler and JVB have teamed up to provide you the answers to all of your powerlifting questions—and get you radically and unapologetically strong. Here’s what’s in the program:


  • A comprehensive training manual that includes Beginner and Early Intermediate 12-week powerlifting programs, with a detailed introduction to biofeedback training.
  • An extensive guide on how to compete for first-time powerlifters who want to step onto the platform.
  • A complete exercise glossary with clear-cut written coaching cues and images.
  • A massive video library of more than 140 exercise demonstration videos. Every movement in the program is in the video library, with detailed coaching cues to walk you through each exercise step by step.
  • A revamped version of Lift Weights Faster geared specifically toward powerlifters.


Unapologetically Powerful is on sale for HALF OFF now through midnight Friday, December 11.  For more info, click HERE.



About JVB

Jennifer Blake’s leggings might be pink but her weights aren’t. A personal trainer at The Movement Minneapolis she is a powerlifting coach and competitor with a passion for helping her clients discover and grow their strength, inside and out. She’s here to spread the good word that strong is empowering and because of that, really, really fun. Facebook: Strong Is Fun, Twitter, Instagram.”




Note from Molly:

I first met Lou in person 2012 at a Fitness Business Conference where he was a presenter, but it was not my first introduction to him as a fitness professional. The New Rules of Lifting series (and specifically, The New Rules of Lifting For Women) contained important principles that helped lay the foundation and framework for my personal training philosophy.


While my methods have evolved over time, the principles have stayed the same, and are rooted in the same concepts Lou and Alwyn discuss in their new book, Strong.

I am grateful to these guys and Dr. Cassandra Forsythe, for their wisdom and commitment to sharing good information with the world.


Guest post by Lou Schuler


A couple of weeks ago an editor asked me to write an article about why skinny guys hate being called skinny.

To a woman, this probably sounds like the world’s worst humblebrag: “I hate it when people tell me I’m totally not at all fat!” But to a genuinely scrawny guy, which I was in my childhood and adolescence, “skinny” is as much an insult as “fat” is to someone who’s extremely overweight.

The first thing I did when I got the assignment was to scan through my work to see what I’ve already written. (That’s the downside of specializing in one topic for almost a quarter-century. The upside, obviously, is that editors still ask me to write about it.)

To my surprise—to my shock, actually—I saw I’d mentioned it in almost every book.

In NROL for Women, on page 5, I described myself as “a ridiculously weak and scrawny 13-year-old boy who dreaded the humiliation of removing my shirt at the pool.”

And in my new book, Strong, I wrote this on page xii: “I started working out when I was 13, when I was usually the skinniest, weakest, and slowest kid who was actually interested in playing sports and chasing girls (most of whom could outrun me).”

Every word is true. And believe me, I remember the pain of being that adolescent weakling like it was yesterday.

But why do I bring it up so often now? What follows is my best guess.


“Skinny, weak, and smart is no way to go through life, son”


My father was a very big and very fat guy. Back in the 1960s, when nobody’s dad worked out, and most of them were soft and pot-bellied, he was usually the fattest in the neighborhood. He was also a former Marine drill sergeant with a violent temper, which he turned on me from time to time.

As an adult I can look back at those incidents and realize how much they affected me. But as a kid, I was much more concerned with what happened outside my home. Adolescent boys have a pecking order based on physical presence and sports skill, and I was at the bottom of it.

Most of the kids like me – the skinny, four-eyed nerds – didn’t play anything at all. I remember one boy in my eighth grade class who wore a sweater to school every day, no matter how hot it was. (This was before schools were air-conditioned.) He was the closest to me in size and shape, and he couldn’t bring himself to be seen in a short-sleeve shirt.

But I loved sports too much to let my obvious inability to play them well hold me back. So I showed up for any sport I had access to, on organized teams or in pick-up games. I put up with comments about my skinny arms and legs and open mocking of my skills.

I also started working out, with the goal of building bigger muscles, which would make me stronger and faster, which would make me better at sports.

I’m sure I had fantasies of a dramatic transformation, like the guy in the Charles Atlas ads. I’m sure I looked in the mirror and imagined that the new bumps and ripples were much more impressive than they actually were.

But it didn’t matter, because the real transformation took place between my ears. Skinny and weak no longer described what I was, and what I was destined to remain. They were merely my starting point. I was now getting bigger and stronger. Granted, my body was taking its sweet f-cking time, but the fact it wasn’t easy made each small improvement that much more satisfying.


The road to somewhere


As I write this I’m 58 years old. I never got especially big or strong, but I never lost interest in the process. Which makes sense, considering I now write about fitness for a living.

I can cite a long list of reasons why physical strength is important to your health and well being. The stronger you are, the lower your risk of dying from any cause. But I can’t say that’s why I still work out, 45 years after I started.

It’s the process itself that keeps me going.

I had no control over what my parents’ genes gave me to start with. I had no control over my father’s temper, or the adolescent hierarchy that assigned so much importance to qualities I didn’t have.

But I could hit the weights. I could do push-ups and pull-ups and run sprints. I could do all those things with no guarantee they’d work because doing something to get better (and now, at my age, to keep from getting worse) changed the way I thought about myself.

And that, I hope, explains why I still talk about that skinny 13-year-old I used to be. Even if few female readers can relate to the trauma of being too damn thin, I think all of us know what it’s like to feel we’re less than we could be.

In that sense, all of us who work out are on the same path. It doesn’t matter if we’re thick or thin, or whether we’re trying to get smaller or bigger. We’re all better than we were at the beginning, but not yet where we want to go.



Note from Molly: “I was lucky enough to receive a review copy, and this book is awesome!”


Lou Schuler is an award-winning journalist and the author, with Alwyn Cosgrove, of Strong: Nine Workout Programs for Women to Burn Fat, Boost Metabolism, and Build Strength for Life




Two of the most common goals when someone starts a fitness regimen are “burn fat” and “build strength.” And the most common reason for not reaching those goals: “I just don’t have time.”


Jen and me making time for fitness! (And reppin' Girls Gone Strong, of course!)

Jen and me making time for fitness! (And reppin’ Girls Gone Strong, of course!)


I get it. Life is full of hurdles, and tacking time at the gym onto what feels like an already endless list of personal and professional to-do’s can feel challenging, if not downright impossible.


But it’s not only possible to get fit when you’re short on time, but you can actually achieve many people’s version of the holy grail of fitness — fat loss and strength gain — without spending hours in the gym.


The secret training formula is…well, it really isn’t a secret at all. Circuit training — also referred to as metabolic-resistance training, cardio-strength training, and my, personal fave, lifting weights faster — has been around for decades and has a slew of scientific research to back it up. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), or sprint-interval training (SIT), is part of the equation, as well.


(Jen coaching me through Sandbag Cleans. These are a great exercise to Lift Weights Faster!)


This approach to total-body conditioning involves cycling back and forth between max (or near-max) efforts and either moderate-effort activity or complete rest.

Continue reading


Over the last 11 years, I’ve done every type of diet you can imagine.  I’ve done low carb, I’ve done high carb, I’ve eaten low fat, I’ve eaten low carb AND low-fat, I’ve tried carb cycling, I’ve tried “if it fits your macros” (IIFYM), I’ve used cheat days, I’ve done elimination diets (for my health, not for fat loss), I’ve tried Paleo, I’ve done intermittent fasting (IF), I’ve back-loaded my carbs, I’ve front-loaded my carbs, I’ve eaten 900 calories a day, I’ve eaten 3200 calories a day – you literally CANNOT present me with a diet that I haven’t tried a variation of.

Calorie Counter

I’ve tried these types of diets with different purposes or goals in mind, whether it was for my physique (low carb, low fat, low calorie, carb cycling, 900 calories), my health (elimination diet, paleo), my performance (high carb, carb cycling, 3200 calories a day), or my lifestyle (carb cycling, intermittent fasting, carb backloading, IIFYM).  In my experience, some of them have worked well, and some of them haven’t.

But the one thing I NEVER tried until the last 2 years, was moderation.  I had never tried just eating, and letting it be.

Moderation: protein, fruit and veggies, fat, and diet sunkist!

Moderation: protein, fruit and veggies, fat, and diet sunkist!

Over the last two years, I’ve taken the information that I’ve gathered about how certain diets make me feel and how they affect my physique, my health, my performance, and my lifestyle, and I’ve melded them into my own personal way of eating that is a glorious intersection of those 4 very important things, and it’s been life-changing.  I’m currently at the best balance of the 4 things than I’ve ever been.

No, I’m not quite as lean as I was when I was super strict.
No, I’m not quite as strong as I was when I was eating more and killing it in the gym day in and day out.
No, I’m not quite enjoying my lifestyle as much as I was when I was in Italy eating gelato 3 times a day.
And yes – I could probably eat less of the few foods that don’t necessarily improve my health like ice cream and queso (although just a few months ago I did just have the best checkup with my Integrative Doc that I’ve had in 5 ½ years – whoo-hoo!)
But I’m at the best BALANCE of all of these places I’ve ever  been.

My intersection of health, aesthetics,

My personal intersection of health, aesthetics, lifestyle, and performance.

So what “diet” am I doing?

I’m doing a carb-cycling-intermittent-fasting-moderation-primal-elimination-carb-back-loading-if-it-fits-my-macros-protocol.

Heard of it? 🙂

You see, based on my experience with all these nutrition protocols, I know what it takes for my body to feel good, and what keeps me sane (and what makes me feel insane!)

So How Do I Eat?

I eat more carbs on days I train, and less on days I don’t which falls under carb cycling, and moderate overall carbs approach.

I generally don’t eat my first solid food meal until 4-6 hours after I wake up because I don’t enjoy eating when I first wake up, and I find that if I do eat early, it stokes my appetite for the entire day and I’m insatiable.  I must prefer to just have coffee and water.  Waiting this long to eat could be considered intermittent fasting.

I eat almost anything I want in moderation until I feel satisfied, and not stuffed, which is, well, moderation.

I don’t eat a lot of grains, legumes, or soy because I don’t love them or feel good on them.  These are some of the most commonly eliminated foods on the primal protocol.

I NEVER eat gluten ever because I have Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism), and occasionally I pull out other foods to see if they make me feel good/bad/awesome/tired.  I’ve also done 2 full-blown elimination diets recommended by my Doctor to help heal my gut and reduce inflammation in my body.

I generally eat most of my carbs at night, which is recommended by the carb backloading protocol.  I choose to do this because: I train at night and I like to eat most of my carbs after my training, carbs can make me sleepy, and they often make me crave more carbs.  I have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and some insulin resistance issues which is likely why I react this way to carbs at times.

Oh, and sometimes my carbs come from ice cream, candy, corn chips, chocolate, gluten free pizza, or gluten free cupcakes, which would fall under the “if it fits your macros” approach to eating, where no food is “off-limits” as long as it fits your macros.

My groceries.  Approximately 5-7 days worth of food, and 2-3 weeks worth of indulgences for 2 peoples.

My groceries. Approximately 5-7 days worth of food, and 2-3 weeks worth of indulgences for 2 people.

Finally, I eat when I’m hungry, and stop when I’m mostly full, which is from the common-freaking-sense school of thought.  So there’s that.

And for the record, these are just guidelines.  These aren’t hard-and-fast rules.

What’s the difference, you ask?  The difference is that with guidelines, it’s just what you generally follow, and if you don’t follow them sometimes, it’s no big deal, whereas with “rules” you tend to feel like you’re following them or breaking them, or being “bad” and it creates a lot of “have-to’s” and guilt and shame.

No thanks.  I’ll stick with guidelines.

So What Does This Diet Look Like?

What I eat changes a bit from day to day, but here’s a typical non-training day (I don’t track macros, but I happen to know what’s in most of what I eat, so I am including it for your information).

Typical Non-Training Day Menu

9:00 – 11 am: 2 very large cups of mostly decaf coffee with some cream and a Splenda/Truvia mix (about 200 calories total from cream) and lots of water

2 pm: 3 turkey jerky sticks (24 grams protein, 13 grams fat, 6 carbs), 12 oz. Diet Sunkist, lots of water

5 pm: 1 Quest bar, 1 packet almond butter (28 grams protein, 24 grams fat, 29 carbs, 17 fiber), lots of water

7 pm: 12 oz. Diet Sunkist, lots of water

9 pm: Large Classic Cobb salad from Smashburger with grilled chicken (sometimes double chicken), dressing and blue cheese crumbles on side, no bacon, add avocado (4-6 cups spring mix, ¼ cup red onion, ¼ cup diced tomato, ¼ avocado, 2 TBSP shredded cheddar, 1 fried egg, 5 oz. grilled chicken) and I use a small amount of ranch dressing for dipping, and a teeny bit of blue cheese crumbles occasionally, 1 order sweet potato fries with 1 oz. mayonnaise (no clue on macros here)

11 pm: 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with Truvia and 1.5 cups fresh mixed berries (25 protein, 6 grams fat, 15-20 carbs), lots of water, green tea

11:30 pm (optional): ½ cup Haagen Dazs dulce de leche ice cream


Here’s a typical training day (I don’t track macros, but I happen to know what’s in most of what I eat, so I am including it for your information)

Typical Training Day Menu 

9:00 – 11 am: 2 very large cups of mostly decaf coffee with some cream and a Splenda/Truvia mix (about 200 calories total from cream) and lots of water

2 pm: 3 whole eggs, ½ TBSP butter, 1 medium apple (20 grams protein, 20 grams fat, 20 carbs), 12 oz. Diet Sunkist, lots of water

5 pm: 1 Quest bar, 1 packet almond butter (28 grams protein, 24 grams fat, 29 carbs, 17 fiber), 12 oz. diet Sunkist, lots of water


9 pm: 10-12 oz. grass-fed beef with taco seasoning, 1 cup white rice, ½ cup homemade guacamole, handful of corn chips, 1.5 cups roasted Brussel sprouts with butter, ¾ cup baked sweet potato with butter and sea salt, lots of water

11:30 pm (optional): 1 small gluten free carrot cake cupcake, lots of water, green tea

As you can see, it’s nowhere near “perfect.”

No tilapia.
No dry asparagus.
No 99% lean ground turkey.
And no insanity.

Just filling, delicious, and mostly-nutrient dense food that leaves me satisfied and happy, and never feeling deprived.

My bod, from all the angles, raw, un-cut, and mostly un-posed.

My bod, from all the angles, raw, un-cut, and mostly un-posed.

The funniest part about looking through this “diet” that I’ve created, is that it literally just pulled the “common sense” parts of every single diet I’ve ever tried and meshed them together, which is how I ended up eating:

– mostly whole nutrient-dense foods

– paying attention to my hunger and fullness cues

– not eating foods that make me feel like crap

– but otherwise not depriving myself of anything

– eating enough protein to build/maintain lean mass without overdoing it

– eating enough carbs to help me feel satisfied and fueled without overdoing it

– eating enough fat to make my food delicious and satisfying and to keep my body healthy without overdoing it

– eating enough variety to keep me healthy and feeling good

^^^Which is exactly where I would recommend anyone start when trying to look better, feel better, and get healthier.


And the biggest and best part of all of it, is that there’s NO STRESS.  There are days that I eat a lot more than this, and days I eat less.  There are days I eat less junk, and days I eat more.  There are days I eat my first meal earlier, and days I eat it later.  My diet revolves around my LIFE and not the other way around.  And it feels good.

What about you?  Have you crafted your own “diet” based on what you’ve found works well for your body? Or do you feel totally lost at how to even get started figuring it out?


So see what had happened was…

That’s how every good, juicy story starts out, right?

And this… this is a good, juicy story I guess, but with an extremely critical lesson.

This lesson is something that I hope all people, but especially parents, take a moment to really think deeply about.

It all started just yesterday when I was scrolling through the comments section of a thread on my Facebook page.

On Tuesday I posted a raw, real, and vulnerable guest blog post from my good friend, Neghar Fonooni.  The blog post was accompanied by a split-screen image of her from 2009 looking incredibly lean and ripped, and then 2014 still looking very fit, but noticeably less lean and ripped.


As you can see, while there is quite a contrast between the two pictures, Neghar is still incredibly fit and quite lean in the picture on the right.  So what was the purpose of Neghar’s post?

She was writing a guest blog post for my site about self-love; a message she and I feel incredibly passionate about (as you’ll see!).

In this blog post, Neghar opens up about how she has battled body image issues for years, and how even when she was her leanest, that “motivation” to be lean was coming from a very dark place.  A place of self-hatred and self-abuse.  A place of deprivation and “I’m-not-enough.”  A place of hardcore restriction followed by hardcore binges.  A place of, “maybe if I’m leaner my boyfriend won’t cheat on me.”

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(Note from Molly:  I am so excited to have another amazing guest blog on my website this week, this time from my girl Neghar Fonooni, Co-Founder of Girls Gone Strong.  Neghar and I met in 2011 and became fast friends.  I mean, let’s be honest.  We both love lifting, food, and empowering women to love their bodies.  Not necessarily in that order of course, but you get my point. 

I even got to hang out with Neghar and her awesome hubby John this past weekend in Vegas for my 30th birthday!


Vegas for my birthday.  'Nuff said.

Vegas for my birthday. ‘Nuff said.

Point being… I absolutely adore this girl, and I am SO excited that she is sharing her story of self-love and body embracement on my website today.  Check it out!)


This is a story about a journey of strength and love, one with a happy ending, although I truly believe it’s not over. Every day I grow and am always expanding with grace and self-acceptance. My journey is not identical to yours, as that is yours alone. But we are all on a journey, aren’t we? A journey to learn to love and accept our bodies, all while enduring the pursuit of improvement.


Whether that improvement is physical, spiritual, emotional, or professional, it’s ultimately a desire to get better. Today I can comfortably say that I am enough. What I do every day is what I’m capable of doing, and my body is beautiful at every stage of its flow. I know now that I can get better, I can grow and cultivate a higher expression of myself, without hating the state I’m currently in. Today I know this, but that wasn’t always the case. My initial desire to improve came from a very dark and lonely place.


A critical realization we all need to have.

A critical realization we all need to have.

It 2009, and it was a powerful turning point.


I was a single mom running my own business, feeling overworked and under recovered. Allowing myself to stay in a verbally and physically abusive relationship, I had yet to truly dig deep and face my demons. Through the words of others and the nasty voice in my head, I allowed myself to believe I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t skinny enough. I wasn’t successful enough. I wasn’t strong or accomplished enough. I just wasn’t enough.


Because I believed I wasn’t enough, my intentions for my body came from a place of abject fear and self-loathing. My entire sense of self-worth as a woman and as a trainer revolved around my physique!

At the time, I weighed in at roughly 120 pounds and 12% body fat. I was ripped out of my mind, and also ACTUALLY out of my mind. I counted every last calorie and worked out for about 2 hours a day. Because I lacked confidence I only felt good about myself when I was lean. I weighed myself every single day and allowed that number to dictate how I felt about myself.

Yes, I'm ripped in this photo, but the motivation comes from a dark place.

Yes, I’m ripped in this photo, but the motivation comes from a dark place.

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[Note from Molly:  If you follow my blog or my Facebook page regularly, you know that I’m a huge fan of having a positive body image, mindset, and perspective, and changing your body from a place of love, not hate.  In fact, a favorite motto of mine is: “Train because you love your body, not because you hate your body.”

Today, my good friend Jill Coleman, who’s basically the Queen of mindset, is sharing with you 6 Reasons Your Body Doesn’t Look Any Different Despite “Doing Everything Right.”

I am absolutely thrilled that she’s sharing these with you all today.  I’m confident you’ll love it (and her!) as much as I do!  Enjoy!]

Jill knows a thing or two about maintaining a lean and healthy physique.

Jill knows a thing or two about maintaining a lean and healthy physique.

Thank you, Molly, for letting me take up space on your blog today!

Molly asked me to provide some insight on how mindset and perspective affect the fat loss process, and why it’s not just about “the perfect meal plan” or “the best” workout program.

Let’s get this out of the way first: body change isn’t about gathering more information.

Information is everywhere. You can find a million “weight loss meal plans” for free on Google right now. And it’s not about getting the perfect meal plan from the best coach. Or finding the right expert to provide your miracle plan.


But, as people seeking body change, this is often what we do: jump from program to program, expert to expert, diet book to diet book, all with the hope of stumbling across THE ONE that will work this time! We think if we juuuuuust find that one additional piece of the puzzle, then we can finally get the results we want.


[Quick side note: if any coach or expert claims to have some special magical meal plan that is better than all others, run away, you’re dealing with an egomaniac!  Truthfully, fat loss meal plans are not rocket science, they are only so many ways to eat vegetables and lean protein.]


But no, fat loss is not about having the most perfect meal plan on earth. Fat loss and body change is about you. Specifically, they are about you and your ability to actually IMPLEMENT consistent behaviors over time, all the while finding some peace, relaxing into the process and managing your mental environment.


In other words, results aren’t about information, they’re about implementation.


We know this intuitively, don’t we? If I asked you to write out what a healthy diet looks like right now, 90% of you could do it. So it’s not that we don’t know WHAT to do, but specifically, we don’t know HOW to do it consistently.


The how-to comes down to your process and your perspective. How you choose to SEE the process? Because the people who get and stay lean have made the transition out of the quick-fix mentality and have settled in for the long haul, weathering the ups and downs of the process and choosing to show themselves kindness and simply do their best. This is a mindset shift.


The most successful people are also the most consistent. And not consistently perfect!


If you feel like your nutrition is on point and your workouts are good-to-go, and you are still not seeing results, you might have some mental hang-ups. Your mindset needs to be the foundation of your process because though diet and workouts alone might earn you a short-term rapid weight loss, how you navigate the process over time begins with your thoughts.


A physical transformation without a mental one leaves something to be desired.


Here are 6 mindset obstacles that may be hindering success:

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Food epiphanies.

Ever had one?

I had one in third grade when I decided that I was so in love with broccoli that I wanted to marry it, but that’s neither here nor there (Update: I’ve since ditched broccoli for brussel sprouts for the most part, and am much more satisfied!)

But seriously, I have had some major food epiphanies lately, and I want to share them with you.  But first, a little background information:

You see, I’ve always had an obsession with food, for as long as I can remember.



I guess you could say that I can pack away some food.

I guess you could say that I can pack away some food.


I always thought about food, dreamed about food, and got excited about what I was going to eat next.  And I had a huge appetite!  In fact, when I was a small child, my Mom found me hiding behind the couch halfway through my 4th stick of butter!  I also used to get in trouble when she would realize that all of our teaspoons were missing and she would find them in the box of Bisquick powder that I had been eating.

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It’s been a looooong 10 years.

It was just over 10 years ago that I found myself at 19 years old, overweight and unhappy with how I looked and felt.  It was at that moment in February of 2004 that I decided I wanted to make a change.

I hired a trainer, starting eat “better” (OK so I started eating more yogurt and drinking Gatorade instead of soda, but it was a start!)

185 lbs. and not feeling so hot about myself.

185 lbs. and not feeling so hot about myself.

Fast forward 10 years and I’ve competed in Figure, dabbled in Powerlifting, co-founded a gym, trained hundreds of clients online and in-person, started a blog, started multiple online fitness businesses, written for some of the biggest fitness websites on the planet, spoken, presented, and coached alongside some of the brightest minds in the industry at seminars and huge conferences, put together a fitness information resource for group training with two brilliant minds that has sold hundreds of copies worldwide…

And I feel like I’m just getting started.

I’m not saying these things to brag.  I’m saying these things to let you know that I’ve been exposed to many different training environments, coaches, philosophies, styles, and programs.

I’ve followed dozens of programs from bright coaches.  I’ve trained for fat loss, pure strength, hypertrophy/muscle gain, overall performance, and physique enhancements, and I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

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