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9 Keys to a Transformation

Holiday Shred Challenge female winner Alisa Tetrault transformed her body – and her life – in under a year's time. Here were her steps to success, in her own words.

9 Keys to a Transformation

Alisa Tetrault made one of the most impressive physical transformations the JYM Army has ever seen. Her fitness journey started in the Spring of 2015 and was an ongoing process that recently culminated with her being named the female winner of the 2015 Holiday Shred Challenge on JimStoppani.com.

What stands out the most to me about Alisa’s progress is how she’s continued to build on her success. When we first featured her with a JYM Army Profile last fall, she talked about the results she’d experienced over a six-month period. She was doing amazing up to that point, and then you know what happened next? She took it to the next level!

Look at the above before and after comparison photos – absolutely insane results!

I was happy to personally meet Alisa, a stay at home (and train at home!) mom from Ohio, this February when we flew the Holiday Shred Challenge winners to Los Angeles to hang out and train with the JYM team. I know Alisa followed several of my training programs and meal plans over the course of her transformation, and I’m proud to say my advice helped her reach her goals. But her results tell me that there was more to it than simply what can be seen on paper or a computer screen in terms of exercises, sets, reps, meals and macros.

I wanted Alisa to share with others some of her personal “keys” to her transformation, so I asked her to write this article. Because there’s only so much I can do to help someone transform his or her body (and life). At the end of the day, you have to do the work and you have to make the change. Below are some of the ways in which Alisa made the change for herself. I hope you all can learn just as much from Alisa as you’ve learned from me!

–Jim Stoppani, PhD


By Alisa Faye Tetrault

It goes without saying, the programs designed by Jim Stoppani were my saving grace when searching for my perfect fitness fit. Just like many people reading this, I was a beginner. I was uneducated, misinformed, and tired of following plan after plan and falling off the wagon. I was searching for an answer and I didn’t even know my question – I was clueless. If I had to describe my journey in three words, perseverance, patience and modification would probably do the trick.

How did I overcome the odds, persevere through the weight plateaus, retain my positive patience, and modify the difficult programs to suit me? Here, I'll explain the nine keys that were essential to my successful journey from an uninformed fitness newbie to an informed fitness addict:

#1 Progress Tracking

I have one photo from the beginning of my journey. That’s it. I have one dim, blurry, front-facing photo in which I am fully clothed. If I could go back, I would put on a swimsuit and capture myself from every angle. I didn’t realize how important those photos would end up being to me later down the road.

About two weeks later and 10 pounds down, I excitedly took my first set of forward and rear facing photos in a mirror (don’t forget to turn sideways, I wish I had some of these too!). Little did I know, those photos would become my foundation for fighting off my own negativity for months to come. Anytime I felt like I wasn’t progressing, I’d snap a new set of photos and make a side-by-side to compare. This method would quickly remind me of how much my hard work was paying off.

Also, be sure take your measurements and know that those are a better indication of your progress than a number on the scale. Use those numbers and also the progress photos you take along the way to gage your progress. It's extremely hard to ditch the scale with the misconceptions about weight and it’s correlation to fitness in our society. Remember that muscle is much more dense than fat. If you're new to a lifting regimen, you're likely gaining weight in the form of muscle. That’s what makes the scale unreliable. It can be discouraging to see that number when you're making good movement toward your goals otherwise.

#2 Setting Realistic Goals

It's important to know the difference between short-term and long-term goals. Set one general long-term goal. This should be something that you’d like to accomplish one day, your ultimate scenario. Now, forget it. Don't think about it. Don't even make it a part of your mission. I think it’s discouraging and makes a fitness journey seem hopeless.

Instead, try making a list of say, five things. Set smaller goals that you can easily reach in a one-month time frame. Focus on those goals and use the happiness you feel from accomplishing them to fuel your momentum into your next set of short-term goals. This method of thinking helped make my journey move along much faster on a mental level. It also helped me stay persistent and focused. Instead of thinking, “I’m only 1/20th of the way to my ultimate goal,” I thought, “Wow, I just accomplished one of my goals! I’m ready to get the next one under my belt too!” Then, 20 small goals later, you’ll be close to your ultimate goal and wondering how time flew by so quickly.

#3 Understanding the Difference Between Diet and Lifestyle Change

I’m sure you’re not reading this because you want to lose 20 pounds then, fall off the wagon and gain back 30 pounds. I’m sure you’re not reading this because you never want to consume another carbohydrate or enjoy another home-cooked meal. That’s the difference in dieting and lifestyle changing. I cannot stress this enough. Make sure that your mind is in the right place and that you have a realistic approach, otherwise you'll fail.

This is why I really fell in love with Dr. Stoppani’s nutritional logic. It’s impossible to go without your favorite things for the rest of your life. At least for me, it was unimaginable. I love food. Completely eliminating everything I love wasn’t a logical solution for me. The solution I needed was a crash-course in moderation. Don’t beat yourself up for being human. There has to be balance when you’re making a big commitment to change your life.

#4 Easing into Nutrition

I was new. I knew very little. The word macronutrients meant absolutely nothing to me. I tried sorting through the information. It was like grabbing the most advanced math book I could find and trying to decipher it. It just wasn’t happening. I was desperate. I did the only thing I could think to do: I cleaned up my diet. Day by day, I eliminated things until I felt I could go no further without learning more. It was a slow process, but I was trying. Take it slow and put forth your best effort and you'll see results.

From there, I got a notebook and I went through Dieting 101. I went back and forth. I skimmed. I studied. I wrote and wrote and scribbled until, finally, it started to make sense. Then, I read my notes over and over until it made more sense. The best way I can explain how learning nutrition felt to me would be to say it reminds me of learning a foreign language. The more I practiced, the more it began flowing through my mind fluently. Things I couldn’t grasp before started falling into place.

#5 Tweaking and Modifying Workouts as Needed

At times, the training programs I was following would be too intense or difficult for me. I made many modifications along the way to make sure I'd be able to complete my daily workout. One of the modifications that I specifically remember having to do quite frequently was adjusting the cardioacceleration period between sets. I would go as long as I possibly could, and then use the remainder of the time to recover.

Another modification I frequently made was the type of cardioacceleration I would perform. Sometimes, I would be so exhausted at the end of a workout that I could barely walk, let alone do step-ups or sprints. Instead, I would do small motions just to stay moving. Things like walking in place, tiny bunny hops or slow butt kicks were my go-to exercises for these times.

#6 Improvising on the Fly

I train in my yard with minimum equipment. I've only been to a gym one time during my fitness journey. There were many exercises (sometimes over half of a workout) that I didn’t have the equipment to properly perform. Don’t be a victim of circumstance. Look up alternatives that target the same muscle(s) in a similar way and roll with it. Maybe your results won’t be as good, but I can promise you one thing: Your improvised version will yield a better result than doing nothing at all!

For instance, my husband purchased a pulley system and we attached it to the top of our squat rack. I use it for all of my pulling exercises like lat pulldowns, straight-arm pull-downs, etc. We don't have an attachment for our pulley, so I put a shovel through the handles to perform these exercises. A little creativeness can go a long way!

#7 Writing it All Down

When starting my fitness journey, I made a habit of physically writing everything down – what I ate, how much I lifted, how long my rest periods were, what type of cardioacceleration I did, etc. I'm thankful that I invested my time into this habit because now I can look back through old journals and see exactly how I've improved in numerous ways. My diet, my strength and my cardiovascular conditioning data are all at the flip of a page. It’s fun and interesting to look back and see exactly how far you’ve come in more ways than just aesthetics.

#8 Making a Motivation Board

Something that really helped me as I progressed further into my journey was making a "motivation board." I bought a magnetic dry-erase board and hung it next to my refrigerator. Here, I would write my daily meal plans and my short-term goals. I used magnets to hang my beginning progress photos to remind me where I came from. I also wrote a motivational quote on it to remind me of why I was on my journey. With this method, my goals and plans were staring me in the face every time I walked in the kitchen. Nutrition was my hardest dirty corner to clean, so this really helped keep me accountable and on track in the kitchen.

#9 Finding My Own Answers

I'm an independent person. I don’t like help unless I have no other option. I found that by taking the initiative to try to find my own answers, I was retaining extra information. By being too prideful to accept fast answers, I found myself up to my head in articles for hours at a time. Although sometimes it took me hours to find the answer I was seeking, all of the outside information eventually started looping together. The extra knowledge I was gaining helped me understand other topics.

Take advantage of what rewards you’ll get from investing a little of your own time. If all else fails, there’s always someone to ask. That’s something I love about this brand.

This journey isn’t easy for anyone. It wasn’t for me and it won’t be for you. However, it’s possible for everyone. What will ultimately set you apart and push you ahead is your mindset. I'm just a normal girl who was tired of breaking a sweat to walk to the mailbox. Who was sick of avoiding mirrors. Who wanted to instill in her children that anything is possible. One small hope can create a dream that can become a reality and change your world. It just takes the right mindset.


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