Top of the Months Transformation: RJ Murray!

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Introducing: RJ Murray
I couldn’t think of a better person to be a part of my Top Transformation posts! RJ Murray and his family have been close family friends to us since I can remember, as they live right behind us! Our whole community is in awe of RJ’s transformation and are so proud of the athlete that he turned into while playing college football! RJ has always been a great, kind, and caring person, but it is amazing to see him grow into a healthier version of that! He was patient in his journey, as that six pack didn’t take a few months! Check out what RJ has to say about his journey, it is truly inspiring!
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Give me a brief summary of yourself and your journey.
My name is R.J. Murray and I’ve lived in Columbia, MD my whole life. I’ve always been on the bigger side and was honestly accepting of the fact up until college.  In high school, I continuously made excuses for myself saying that I was “big for football” or giving some other sport related justification as to why my weight was out of control.  At some point or another, I actually started believing my own excuses and completely let myself go.  Once college hit, athletics became a huge part of my life.  I played football for Salisbury University and the experience helped me drastically through the process of making a lifestyle change.  My senior year of high school I weighed nearly 260lbs with an outrageous BFP. (body fat percentage) After graduating high school in 2008, I decided it was time to make a change.  In a matter of 6 months in 2009, I lost nearly 60lbs of excess weight while adding a good deal of muscle.  That being said, a true transformation takes years – it takes much longer than 6 months and certainly doesn’t happen overnight.  I continued playing football, working out, conditioning, and most importantly – dieting to this day and have seen great results.
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What changes did you make to your diet in the beginning to get you where you are today?  And what does your current diet look like?
In the beginning, start slowly eliminating destructive habits and foods.  It should be easy to justify not eating out.  You’re not only getting healthier, but also saving money.  It’s important to make a plan.  Pick a diet and only buy what’s necessary for the week when you go to the grocery store.  This should also save you money by eliminating waste and unnecessary snack foods.  Just as in exercising, the results of dieting don’t show overnight.  It takes time – if it was easy we’d all look like Greg Plitt or Lazar Angelov. Put in the work, stay committed, and reap the results! 
My current diet:
Meal 1: 8 oz. griller sirloin steak, ½ cup dry oats ( ½ scoop whey protein, ½ banana, 1 tsp. coconut oil, 1 tbs peanut butter, 1 tsp. instant espresso, 1 tbs. cinnamon), ½ cup blueberries
Meal 2: 8oz baked/grilled chicken breast, ½ cup brown rice or 6oz (½) baked sweet potato, 1 cup steamed green beans, hot sauce
Meal 3: 1 scoop whey protein, ½ cup raw almonds
Meal 4: 8oz baked/grilled chicken breast, ½ cup brown rice or 6oz (½) baked sweet potato, 1 cup steamed green beans, hot sauce
Meal 5: 6oz broiled salmon, 1 cup green beans
Meal 6: (Pre-workout) 1 scoop whey protein, 1 banana
Meal 7: (Post-workout) 1 scoop whey protein, 1 cup dry oats or 1 scoop carbogain, 1 scoop glutamine, 1 scoop hydrolyzed BCAA’s.  45 minutes later: ½ lb. bison burger, 1 Ezekiel English muffin, 2 tbs. reduced sugar ketchup, 1 cup steamed broccoli.
Meal 8: 1 scoop whey protein, 8 egg whites, ¼ cup minced peppers and onions
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Rj’s new lifestyle had made him so much happier as a person. He looks forward to working out and it gives him goals for the day. It also has made him more organized. His ability to stay in control and stick to his diet is really inspiring. -Cara Murray
What were your goals?
Short term:  I wanted to be a better athlete.  I wanted to play football and be the best that I could be.
Long term:  I wanted to be healthy… I’m certainly not genetically gifted in the health and fitness department which makes working harder that much more important.  Working out is more than just enhancing appearance; it’s about living a healthy life.
What do you do for exercise?
I use a mix of weight training (power lifting/bodybuilding/crossfit), cardio/conditioning, and sports.
When did you decide to change your life and what motivated you the most?
As I mentioned in the summary, after graduating high school in 2008, I decided it was time to make a change.  In a matter of 6 months in 2009, I lost nearly 60lbs of excess weight while adding a good deal of muscle.  That being said, a true transformation takes years – it takes much longer than 6 months and certainly doesn’t happen overnight.  I continued playing football, working out, conditioning, and most importantly – dieting to this day and have seen great results.
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What is the best advice you can give to those who have similar goals (or personal goals in general) in mind?  What do you think is the main reason why some people find it so hard to reach goals such as the one you achieved?
Don’t make excuses for yourself.  If you want to see results, you have to put in the work. Nothing is more irritating than hearing someone say that “its genetics” or “it’s impossible.”  To be honest, either is an embarrassing lie.  The real reason is because you play x-box 6 hours a day, you and the guy at the drive-through window of Wendy’s are on a first name basis, and you’re lazy and uncommitted.  Get off your ass and do something… It doesn’t matter what; just get up and do something – anything.  Change your diet slowly.  Adjust your body to natural, wholesome foods and get rid of processed junk.  Stay on the outskirts of the grocery store and force yourself to work with the ingredients you find there.  If you don’t go through the aisles, the temptation won’t be there.  Every 3 or 4 weeks, change everything… workout routines, diet, etc.  Find what works for you and even when you find it, change it and come back to it… Introduce your body to new things.
What (and who) helped you the most through the process of bettering yourself?
When you’re in the process of making a serious lifestyle change, family and friends are always the first to support you.  Following suite, my family and friends were extremely supportive and helpful throughout the process.  That being said, when going through the process of turning a “health kick” into an actual life style it directly boils down to how interested you are in bettering yourself.  The support and help comes from your personal dedication, motivation, and discipline as the one experiencing the changes.  Use your support for yourself as a main source of motivation and feed from help and support that your friends and family give.  If I had to pick something that directly helped me the most, it would be football.  Playing football through high school; and more specifically, college, kept me active and focused.
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How has your life changed since you reached your goals?
Generally, I’m the same guy that I have always been… Obviously, there have been some physical changes such as energy levels and appearance; but the biggest change is the drive to wake up in the morning with a purpose. Always look to better yourself in every way possible.  This lesson extends further than just the weight room or football field but can be applied to every aspect of life whether it is work, hobbies, relationships, etc. Wake up with a purpose and be the best you can be!
What are you going to do (now that you’ve reached success) to maintain your progress?
If you keep the outlook that you never reach success and always strive to be better than you were the day before, you’ll never have the chance to settle.  Settling is one of the worst things you can do in any situation.  Always push yourself to the next level.  I plan on continuing weight training and conditioning as well as dieting appropriately to reach whatever goals I have at the time; waking up with a purpose and aiming to get better every single day.

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Yours Truly,

Stef

Top of the Months Transformation: Lisa Muller

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I present to you my inspirational Mother as my first Top Transformation of the Month! Warning: this post will leave you extremely motivated, wow-ed, and maybe even a little emotional! What my Mother has accomplished is outstanding, and just as she says in the end of her interview, I can’t imagine doing this without my mother and father by my side. I also wish her parents were here to see the look in their eyes at how beautiful and impressive their daughter is. That’s why I want to share her story with you all. She deserves one GIANT pat on the back, as I have finally gotten Lisa Muller to share her guts and glory! Lisa also wants to warn everyone that she is not a writer. The spelling mistakes and weird made up grammar rules you see in my posts? Well, yeah, I got it from my Mama. Lisa wants to give a shoutout to Blake and her husband, and my father, Richard, for always being by her side. As many of you know, my mother and I went through this together, but the men in our family were with us too! Before you read, let me summarize Lisa’s weight loss. With 282 as her heaviest, Lisa went from 282 to 167 in ONE YEAR! She now weighs in at about 162.

“I never weigh myself, I don’t like the number. I go by how my clothes fit and how I generally feel. That’s all. I’ve always wanted to write and get my story out there, for me, for whoever, and I thank you for letting me. There’s so much more I can write, like when I write to Jillian Michaels to let her know about my journey, and she comes back and offers me a week at the biggest loser ranch! I probably will never write her, but I thought about it! :)”

Give me a brief summary of yourself and your journey.  
My name is Lisa Muller. I grew up in New Jersey in a big Italian family, where food was EVERYTHING.  Got married in 1987 weighing 142 lbs.
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As the years went by I kept putting on weight.  My mom passed away in 2004, I weighed 240 lbs.  In that next year I had the audacity to gain 25 lbs.  So I was 265 lbs, and not happy at all.  Everything was an effort.  I knew I had to loose weight, but loosing 100 lbs seemed insurmountable, and losing 60 wasn’t enough.  I had, in my closet, size 18, through (in the summer of 2009, my weight had soared to 282 at 5’7) size 26 and xxxl (which were tight).  That summer (2009) my husband kept talking about us getting “The Biggest Loser 30 Jump Start” ,loose 20 lbs in 30 days, and I kept putting him off. In August of 2009 we took my son to college, my daughter was an upcoming senior, and that September I bought the book.  It was 30 days of three meals and snacks…AND recipes.  I closed the book, and said “Nah, I’m not making all this stuff”.  My husband said “lets just do it for the 30 days and see…” and with his persistence, and my kicking and screaming, we started in October.  We holed ourselves in for one month, ,started walking, did not drink, go out to dinner, even go to our mother-in-law or sister-in-laws.  I was at the grocery store at least 4 times a week, bitching and moaning, but following the plan.  I’m so sorry I didn’t document my weekly struggle, yet weight loss   After the 30 days, we both lost 20 lbs and for me (as well as my husband)it was like a switch.  I started going to the gym and doing a cardio machine for 15 minutes, did some hand weights and sit ups,  Mid November I started going to a core conditioning class every tues/thurs, was doing some sort of exercise 4-5 days a week.  For the next few months we did not go out to dinner, order out, or drink.  In February I started running on the treadmill, then started with a mile outside.  In September of 2010 I had lost 115 and my husband lost 60.
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What were your goals?
My goal, at first, was to just get thru the 30 days.  After that, my goal was to loose 100 lbs and get to a size 14 (I thought being a 12 might be to hard to maintain).  I remember my girlfriend, Kim, asking me, at around -50, what was it for me that got me going.   And truly I couldn’t answer, it was just timing.  I think when you’re ready, you’re ready.  I would watch biggest loser and be so emotional, but I would also sit there with a bowl of  ice cream and melted peanut butter, thinking “oh sure, they get to go away, be on the ranch, and have great trainers, doctors, etc.”  During this year, my mindset (that I’d had for so many years) just vanished.  I grew up an athlete, and as this weight loss was happening, it was such an empowering feeling.  Little by little I was feeling like Lisa.  I’ve been playing tennis since I was 10,and still played at 282 lbs.  Was even playing softball.  But, like a past Weight Watchers instructor always used to end a meeting “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels”,that couldn’t be more true.
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Top Right: September 2009, Bottom Left: September 2010 <– can you say WOW?
When did you decide to change your life and what motivated you the most?
As my weight grew, I had a beautiful young daughter, who from first grade on, just kept gaining more weight.  By high school she was 262 lbs.  And I thought how could I be this, why can’t I be a good role model for my daughter, who is getting heavier and heavier.  One would’ve thought that that would’ve been my motivation.  You all know her story, but in October of 10th grade, she just made up her mind and started watching her weight.  The strength she had, which I’ve realized more and more, esp thru my weight loss, that she showed was mountainous.  When all these girls did was get together and eat, Stefani just said “No”, even when her friends, who couldn’t really understand, would say “just eat it”, she did not.  The strength…she was my motivation, albeit, a few years later.
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What is the best advice you can give to those who have similar goals (or personal goals in general) in mind?
The best advice…it is so individual.  I feel that I can’t say, “you can do it”, because that was said to me, and I couldn’t, or wouldn’t.  There was NO willpower, willpower was, as I’m heading to Dunkin Donuts “am I going to get 2 donuts or one sour cream donut, with my coffee”.  Because, even I knew that those sour cream donuts where high in everything,  And god for bid I decided to bring home a dozen for “my kids”, not good.  Or buy oreos (huge red light food)for “the kids”, only to find myself dunking 2 at a time into my milk or coffee (I’m from an Italian family from new jersey…we dunk everything).  I did this, really without knowing I was going to do this…to this extent.  Sure I’ve done other diets where I’ve lost 20, 30 even 40 lbs, only to gain it all back and then some,  My advice would be, DO NOT GIVE UP, STAY STRONG.  They say it takes 30 days to change a habit, well for me that’s the truth (I never even heard of that till well into my weight loss).  I think people give up too easily.  I remember watching biggest loser, watching those overweight people doing those exercises, and they give up, of course, when you’re 300 lbs, that stuff is hard.  And Jillian would say “work thru it…”,  I didn’t get that until, at 255 lbs , when I started going to the gym, I would do my 15 minutes on an elypical, but after 2 minutes I would be like “I can’t do another minute”, but I would push through it, and its so true.  PUSH THROUGH, GET PAST “IT”, WHATEVER THAT “IT” IS, DON’T GIVE UP SO SOON, PUSH YOURSELF, YOU’RE CAPABLE OF MORE THAN YOU KNOW, DON’T GIVE UP AS SOON AS YOU THINK YOU’VE HIT YOUR LIMIT, I want to scream to people to do it, don’t wait, it feels too good.
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What do you think is the main reason why some people find it so hard to reach goals such as the one you achieved? 
You have to be prepared!!!!  Buy a lunch bag and keep it in your car with bars and 100 calorie packs, nuts.  Drink water…we know that water is good for you, but when you’re heavy, water is so filling.  Now, I will down a water from the gym to home (1-1/2 mile).  And sometimes, it triggers hunger…yup.  Plus if you’re “older” (I’m rounding 50, well, actually, right around the damn corner)its good for the skin, keep hydrated.  If you work…make your lunch!!  Bring a snack.  If it helps, follow a plan.  I truly liked that, it took the guess work out of what I’m going to eat for my meals and snack.
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What (and who) helped you the most through the process of bettering yourself? 
Who helped me thru this…Rich, my favorite.  He saw the strength in me that I had lost so long ago,  I thank him for introducing me to this journey, and doing it together was amazing.  We have been together since we were 16 and 17, 33 years, and we are closer than ever.  My relationship with him and my kids has blossomed.  My daughter is a big crossfitter, and my son, as they say, has “drank the kool-ade” and is just as “big” of a crossfitter. (You’re still small, Blake. – Stef)  We’ve all taken on a healthier lifestyle.
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How has your life changed since you reached your goals? 
How has my life changed.  I can’t begin to get that across,  Raising my kids, everything was a chore.  I rarely did laundry, if I forgot something upstairs, “oh well”, the stairs were a chore, Just handling everyday life was a chore, I remember thinking, when Lady Diana was killed, it hit me that if I died right at that time, I would die unhappy,  Yet…it took me YEARS to do anything about it.  I go up and down the stairs 5 times a day, I do laundry, This paragraph is so trivial.  My life has changed drastically, yet I’m not one to think I should’ve done this a long time ago,  I did it now, and I won’t look back.
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What are you going to do (now that you’ve reached success) to maintain your progress?
So, September was my 3 year anniversary with the weight OFF.  I’ve never faltered, I will never go back to the way I used to eat (now I would’ve never said that thru my journey, wasn’t sure and strong enough),  I know the percentage of people who gain it back is high…nope, not me…I’m good.  And I am a solid size 12 (some 10’s)and I am not struggling to keep that size.  I run 4 times a week, take that core conditioning class (still-4 years later-its my constant)twice a week, I do an advanced kickboxing class Mondays. My kids try to convince me to crossfit, but two memberships is pricey!
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I eat solid during the week, so the weekends I can drink my wine and not worry about going out to dinner if I do. I thought I loved food before…no…I love food more now (before I always felt like crap), not now.  My appetite is not small,  I am not one of those people who go out to dinner, only to bring 1/2 home,  Nope, I eat everything on my plate, just like my mom said…only wished my mom and dad could’ve been here to see this.
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Yours Truly,
Stef

Update! Top of the Months Transformation

Hello All! I have a few updates! As many of you know I’ve been trying to post more and make some exciting changes to my blog. I’ve added Fashion Meets Fitness, and I have one more exciting topic I plan on talking about! As many of you can read, I sit on this blog and mainly talk about myself. My advice, whats worked for me, what I did that day, what I do and don’t like. Well, honestly, sometimes…who cares about every little thing I have to say? SO. Here I’d like to introduce to you… Top of the Month’s Transformation! At the top of every month I will post about someone who has inspired ME, while inspiring and bettering themselves. It’s not all about weightloss, it could be someone who has just put in a ton of work to gain some muscle, get fit, and get happy! I will give people a chance to share THEIR story, their methods, and what motivates them. I don’t know about you but I love hearing about other peoples journeys. This will give everyone a broader idea of how losing weight/getting fit really works, and how different methods work for different people. We can all learn together! Stay tuned for my first Top of the Month Transformation! I figured I’d start with my mother, twin, inspiration, motivator… And biggest competitor (hehe). So so proud of my mom for reaching her potential and finding health and happiness. She was beautiful before, but look at that hot mamma!

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We did it together! Stay tuned for a short interview with Lisa Muller and some more photographs of her journey. You are sure to be WOWed!

Yours Truly,

Stef

The Last Supper

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Or a family reunion. Whatever you want to call it. My mother and I (who I will probably refer to as Lisa) spent the whole morning yelling cooking. She made tai pasta salad, and a separate gluten free version. I on the other hand made cookies. Gluten soy and dairy free. I just tried one. No regrets. Just cookies.

A large portion of our family will be staying in my aunts house on the water in Annapolis. There will be a million little kids and a million calories to be consumed. This time will be a little different because I actually can’t eat 90% of the food. So naturally I packed my own food and brought some allergen free desserts to share. Not to mention my mom made me a serious looking eggplant “parm”. Tonights italian, tomorrows grilling (thank god, less stressful) Pictures and details will come post weekend. But for now, ill leave you with some cookies.

By the way, I didn’t actually make them, I simply followed the instructions on the Cherrybrooke kitchen box. I’m a cheater.