Blog Forward: The 2014 ZonePerfect Challenge

The last two years have been such an amazing journey with my health. This week in 2012, I was beginning the pre-surgery diet to prepare for my gastric bypass. I lost 120 pounds in the next 11 months, with a pretty constant downtrend in scale numbers. Through 2013, my life was less restricted. I was able to eat more, tolerate more varieties of food, and started testing out the limits of my newly-regained healthy body. Despite the loss of weight, I still had health concerns and had to proceed with caution. I struggled with reactive hypoglycemia as I tried to become a more serious athlete. I had mono and peritonsillar abscesses, went on steroids, gained some weight, and then had a tonsillectomy. Two weeks later began a two month whirlwind of travel, packing, interviewing, and general life insanity to prepare for our move to Michigan.

zoneperfect cashew pretzel barNow it’s 2014. I feel like my health is back in my control. I got a Fitbit One for Christmas, and it’s helped me be more aware of my activity levels. January has been an incredibly involved month at work, I’ve worked a lot of overtime, and the Fitbit kept me motivated to walk a little more and take the stairs whenever possible. I haven’t been to the gym as frequently as I’d like, but tracking on the Fitbit stats often push me to go longer at the gym. However, no matter my activity levels, I still need to be mindful about what I eat.

ZonePerfect invited me to be a blogger for their 2014 BlogForward challenge. It’s a campaign for bloggers to make healthy resolutions in 2014, with challenges through the year to keep us motivated and on-track for long-term success. I have been a fan of their bars for several years, and I’m happy to act as a brand ambassador in this challenge.

zone perfect nutrition protein barsFor this challenge, I’ve decided on these goals:

1. Avoid mindless snacking by planning the food I bring on the go. Between long work days, too much time in a car, frequent travel, and other life unpredictability, I’ve begun to rely too much on junk and convenience foods again. A pastry or bag of chips at the gas station were almost a daily norm before surgery. When I don’t plan, I don’t make good decisions. I do best when I have a supply of nuts, jerky, dried fruit, and bars tucked in my desk or glove box.

2. Walk 3,000,000 steps. With the Fitbit being much more accurate than any cheap pedometer I’ve used, I feel like my efforts are properly documented. And seeing my number sync through the day help me add additional activity. I’ve calculated that to reach 3 million steps, it averages out to be about 8,500 steps a day. Most days, this is doable. And when it’s not, I’ll make up for it other days.

3. Work on my endurance to prepare for the Detroit Free Press International half-marathon. Through the encouragement of my friend Wendy, I’ve signed up to participate in the Detroit half, which is one of the only races that cross international boarders , going from the US to Canada and back.

4. Get below a BMI of 29. Despite losing so much weight, I’m still in the obese category. And by golly, I want to just be “overweight”!!! That means I’ve got about 40 pounds to hit that milestone. If I’m consistent, that’s just 3-4 pounds a month. It’ll be tough, but I think I can achieve it.

zone perfect vanilla cupcakeSo, dear blog friends…what are your health and fitness resolutions for 2014? Can you help be my cheerleaders to meet my goals this year? Let’s Blog Forward together!

P.S. The Kidz Zone Yellow Cupcake bar is THE BOMB. I call it the “cupcake crack” bar. It’s soooo good. You’ve gotta try it.

Disclosure: I have agreed to be a brand ambassador for ZonePerfect as part of the Blog Forward Challenge. I have not received any monetary compensation, but I will be receiving shipments of free product through the year to enjoy and share with my readers. All opinions, good or bad, are my own.

#TmFit And The Walmart Workout

moving comfort workout hoodie

Happy New Year!

Today begins 2013, a year where I feel in control of my life. I feel in control of my body. I feel in control of my health. And I’m actually doing well with self-control and taking accountability for my actions. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying hard every day.

It’s been more difficult to blog here lately because my rapid weight loss has tapered off. I’ve been at a plateau for a few weeks, and I can’t get the scale to budge below 250.0 pounds. Granted, it’s not just about the scale…I’ve had many non-scale victories. One of the best ways to work yourself out of a plateau is just that: work. You can’t just rely on the food you eat to sustain your weight loss – you must be active. It’s necessary.

My friend Alex published a post on his blog called “Don’t Wait Until January” last week. Along with adopting a more healthy lifestyle for himself, he wants to help others get into a healthier lifestyle using public accountability on social media. In the post, he said

“If you are out of shape, for any reason, I think you should join me in the battle to be healthy again. And for me, it is a battle. A daily one. If you are reading this and you are overweight and out of shape, don’t make fun of it any longer. Don’t tease or joke about how you eat poorly and never exercise. I used to do the same. It’s a defense mechanism. We all want to live happy, fun and productive lives. So let’s help each other do that. I know I need your help and maybe you could use a bit of mine (or someone else’s). If even one of you join in, that would be great. If more of you join in, even better. There is strength in numbers!”

The terms of the challenge? It’s completely up to you. No “crazy pills or fad diets”. Make sustainable changes to your life by eating less (especially junk food) and moving more. And because you can’t improve on what you don’t measure, tracking is essental. I’m using the MyFitnessPal and Fitocracy apps to track myself, and I check in on Twitter (using team fit hashtag #TmFit) and checking in on our Facebook group. Posts are also being made on Instagram and Google+ with the #TmFit hashtag.

#tmfit fitness challenge
Even though I was up past midnight to ring in the new year, I was wide awake at 4:20 am. My gym is closed for the holiday, and I was trying to decide what to do. I didn’t want any excuses (like the 17 degree weather outside) deter me from getting in a workout, so I decided to innovate.

people of walmart workout

This morning I drove down the highway and did a workout at the 24-hour Walmart. I arrived before 5:30 am, and the only people in the store were employees. As they were stocking the shelves, I kicked my walking into high gear and zig-zagged the aisles. Back and forth through the store, with stops in the sporting goods section to do a few sets of arm exercises with 10 pound dumbbells and a 20 pound kettlebell. I checked my heartrate often to make sure I was always over 140 beats per minute, and I didn’t stop until after I’d hit the hour mark. I got plenty of funny looks from Walmart employees, and had people ask me “Is there anything I can help you find?” more times than I can count. Afterwards, I did some shopping in three different corners of the store (so I didn’t feel guilty for using the store for my personal purposes).

I didn’t use a pedometer, but I’m sure I walked somewhere around 2-3 miles, and my arms are feeling a good burn from the weights and kettlebell. I also don’t know how many calories I burned, but 60+ minutes of moderate exercise is nothing to scoff at. It was much better than risking an asthma attack taking a walk in the cold. Now to see if anyone submits a picture of me to People of Walmart.

My goals for the next 60 days of #TmFit:

  • Exercise at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week, but strive for more
  • Get below 240 pounds by the end of February
  • Track all of my exercise in MyFitnessPal (username: cuteculturechick)
  • Be honest with my reporting, even when I am feeling lazy or eating poorly

If you’re interested in joining me and Alex (and many other Utah social media friends) in Team Fit, send me a message on Facebook or a tweet to @cuteculturechic and @_alexlawrence with the #TmFit hashtag. Then leave a comment on Alex’s blog post, and you’ll get access to the Facebook group. We’d love to have you join us.

Top Ten Non-Scale Victories of 2012

2012 has been an incredible year for me.

I have accomplished so much, and achieved goals that have previously seemed impossible. Obviously, the weight loss has been the highlight of my year. I weigh over 120 pounds less than I did going into 2012. But beyond the total pounds, there have been a lot of other non-scale victories (also known as NSVs in the weight loss community).

Some of my favorite NSVs:

  1. Having the energy to walk 10+ hours a day with my family in London
  2. Fitting into jeans and dresses that haven’t fit since I was newly married to my husband
  3. Being able to go on airplane flights without a seatbelt extender…and having extra slack on the seatbelt when I pull it taut.
  4. Seeing my collarbones again. And my knee bones. And my wrist bones.
  5. Acquiring an amazing support network, both online and offline, by sharing my story
  6. Meeting Beth (aka Melting Mama) and many friends from Bariatric Bad Girls Club
  7. Having the confidence to go on TV and be featured as KSL’s Blog of the Week 
  8. Being able to cross my legs comfortably
  9. Tossing aside my giant beach towel and using a regular-sized towel for bathing
  10. Looking at myself in the mirror…and seeing the real Nicole that I know has been there all along…

Here’s to an amazing 2013!

Milestone: Fifty Pounds Lost

50 pound weight lossToday was a milestone I’ve been excited about for the last week or two. I’ve never lost 50 pounds – ever.


This morning I stepped on the scale, and I weigh 323.0 – Which means I’ve lost 50.3 pounds. It comes at a good time, because today is my 8 week mark since surgery. Everyone who I’ve talked to who has been through weight loss surgery told me that the weight loss will happen so fast, you can hardly believe it. And they were completely right – I can hardly believe it.

If you’ve followed my blog through my journey, you know that there have been a lot of bumps in the road. I’ve been dealing with pretty significant fatigue, I haven’t been able to work full-time hours consistently, and I’ve been in the ER a few times. I’ve cried in frustration when I’ve wanted to do things that my body hasn’t let me do (good and bad). I’ve met some ridicule by people who think that I chose to go the “easy way out” with surgery. It hasn’t been easy, but has it been worth it? Absolutely!

I still have a long way to go – I’m only 25% of the way to my goal weight. The next milestone I’m excited for is the 75 pound mark – at which I’ll be under 300 pounds for the first time since 2008.


  • Neck: 15.25 (-1.5)
  • Bust: 48 (-4)
  • Chest: 42.5 (-3.5)
  • Waist: 44 (-6)
  • Upper Bulge: 48 (-5)
  • Hips: 57.5 (-4.5)
  • Thigh 30.5 (-3.5)
  • Calf: 21 (-2)
  • Ankle: 11 (-1.5)
  • Bicep: 18.25 (-1.75)
  • Wrist: 7 (-2)