An honest review of 9 Week Control Freak

An honest review of 9 Week Control Freak

This is not the first time I’ve completed a workout program but it’s the first time I’ve felt compelled to do a review about one. I just finished Beachbody’s 9 Week Control Freak and Off the Wall by Autumn Calabrese. It was five days a week – four of which were strength training workouts that lasted around 35 minutes and one cardio day that was 25 minutes. First up, the ads for the program say the workouts are 18-30 minutes long but that is only the “work” portion of the workouts. It does not include warm up, cool down or the insane amount of time it takes for Autumn to demo all the moves. The original program is 9 weeks and includes equipment: light, medium and heavy dumbbells, a door track (which is pretty much just resistance bands with handles and a door anchor), a core ball and a step. Off the Wall is an additional 15 workouts (or three weeks) using dumbbells only. Also, the program included nightly guided stretches that were 6-10 minutes plus a huge array of bonus workouts.

I will talk about the good stuff first because well, there really isn’t much. I did see some strength improvements especially in my core and upper body. The workouts were short enough that I didn’t have to get up crazy early to fit them in. I did like using the track and core ball. I really enjoyed the bonus workouts for upper body and core and will probably use some of them again. I had to buy heavier resistance bands on Amazon because the program came with a 15 lb. and 20 lb. band, and those weren’t enough even in the beginning. The nighttime stretches were good, but I could never really remember to do them regularly. Towards the end of the program, I started doing them immediately after the workout for a longer stretch. I prefer to stretch warm.

Now the bad stuff. Lord help me, some of the moves were absolutely ridiculous in complexity. It’s like Autumn tried to make the moves as complicated as possible without regard to whether they were truly effective. There was literally a move that consisted of a kneeling on one knee back fly transitioning to laying flat and doing a pullover followed by a sit up and then a sit through to get back to one knee for the next back fly. Yes, it’s as complicated (and stupid) as it sounds. There is a modification shown that makes MUCH more sense.

With the exception of the cardio workout, all the workouts had a “Density” round in which you would try to perform a certain number of reps (12, 10 or 8) of five moves in 12 minutes. Again, with the complication. I would say every single move in every single density round was not a move that was meant to be performed as quickly as possible. These are weight-lifting moves and if you’re trying to “race the clock” as Autumn repeats OVER AND OVER, your form gets sloppy and that’s how you get hurt. There were many times where I would get less than half the rounds in as the cast because I was trying to perform the moves with good form and actually get something out of them. I just don’t think any of the moves are appropriate for this type of training.

The tabata portions were also frustrating because in each phase, you’d start over with a “reverse tabata” in which you’d do 10 seconds of the exercise and a 20 second rest. Then the next week it was 15/15, followed by a true tabata at 20/10 in the third week of each phase. Of course, you could do more if you wanted but there was no timer on the screen to help you keep track.

Finally, the worst part of the entire workout – and since this was actually my first Autumn program, I’m going to guess this is probably true of all her workouts – her constant food shaming. Autumn goes ON AND ON AND ON AND ON about nutrition which is theoretically fine because it is so important for people who are trying to lose weight. As a side bar, I ate like shit for the entire program and I gained 11 lbs. so I am fully aware that you can’t out-train a bad diet. But Autumn’s condescension on the subject of food is on a whole other level. I vehemently disagree with her portion fix program and I believe the containers are a surefire way to create or resurface eating disorders. She is absolutely relentless about sticking to your portions and containers and servings. She talks about seeing people shopping in the supermarket and wanting to slap food out of their hands (I WISH A BITCH WOULD!). She even talks about her 11-year-old son’s food choices!! She says multiple times throughout the program: “Your body is a reflection of your lifestyle” and I want to punch her in the throat. She is the epitome of diet culture and it is highly unlikely that I will ever do another program of hers because of it.

I am moving on to a customized hybrid of a couple of other Beachbody programs and I hope they are better than 9 Week Control Freak. I’m really not sure how they could be worse. Don’t waste your money on the early release, and honestly there are plenty of better ways to spend 9 weeks once it’s released to the BOD library. Skip this one.

F*ck food rules

F*ck food rules

Ever since my daughter started eating solids, I have been hyper-aware about our language and culture surrounding food. I know, without a doubt, she will be inundated with diet culture bullshit from a very young age but I want to make damn sure that never happens at home. Here are some of the things we do to help her create a healthy relationship with food.

Food is not labeled as “good” or “bad”. We don’t use the term “junk food”. We don’t insist she cleans her plate or takes one more bite of anything before leaving the table or having dessert. We do encourage her to try everything at least once and if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to eat any more.

We talk about food in terms of what it does for our bodies. Chicken makes our muscles strong. Avocados help our brains work. Oranges help us fight off the bad germs. Sweet potatoes make food for the good germs that live inside us. Macaroni and cheese tastes amazing. Cookies are a delicious treat. Cow’s milk makes your nose stuffy.

We encourage her to listen to her body. If her body tells her she isn’t hungry anymore, then the meal is over no matter what is left on her plate. Dessert is not a guarantee after every meal and it’s not dependent on what she ate at the meal.

Is she still a picky eater? A lot of the time, yes. Does she still insist on PB&J or chicken nuggets over certain meals I prepare? Yes. Does she eat candy? Yes.

Our strategies probably aren’t perfect (if such a thing even exists) and a lot of our hard work will likely be undone as she gets older and the food shaming begins from external sources. My hope is that we can build a strong foundation for her now, so that when the inevitable does happen, it feels very foreign to her.

I never really, truly understood how completely damaging diet culture is until I started to see it in relation to my baby girl. I’ve allowed myself to be hurt by it for decades but I feel like that has all prepared me for this.

To do better by her.

The other victims of COVID-19

The other victims of COVID-19

Some disclaimers to start. If you find yourself going all righteous indignation while reading this post, please scroll back to this paragraph, take a deep breath and read it again. I am not discounting the lives lost due to COVID-19. All life is valuable and every death is tragic. I am not suggesting that we don’t need to be doing something about this virus. I am not claiming to know the perfect solution. I am not, REPEAT…NOT, saying one situation is worse or deserves more attention than the other. That is a perspective issue and I realize it’s different for everyone. What I AM saying is this: it shouldn’t be one or the other and there is entirely too much “acceptance” of collateral damage going on. We need to be looking at this from ALL SIDES.

Okay, here we go.

My daughter is four years old. The pandemic has changed her. Once a carefree, happy-go-lucky, extremely laid back child has now morphed into an anxiety-riddled, obsessive pre-schooler. She is obsessed with staying “clean”. A few weeks ago, she had been washing her hands so much that they were RAW. Her tiny little hands were red and cracked and painful because she was terrified of getting sick and she washed her hands 50 times a day at least. We had to make her stop so that she wouldn’t have to cry in pain from her hands. Now, she asks us 50 times a day if she needs to wash her hands.

When she’s eating, if she drops a piece of food in her lap or on the table or chair she asks permission to eat that piece of food.

She tells us every time her fingers go anywhere near her mouth or nose and asks if she should wash her hands now.

When she coughs or sneezes and forgets to use her elbow, she reports it to us and apologizes for it.

She tells us every day if a friend at school or daycare touches her or hugs her or they share a toy. A full report.

SHE. IS. FOUR. YEARS. OLD. She can’t even be a kid. I have no idea what impact this will have on her future mental health. And, neither do you so don’t even bother telling me that “she will be fine” or “she is surviving a pandemic” or any other horseshit that’s going around on social media. YOU DON’T KNOW. None of us has any idea what the response to this pandemic will do to our children, ultimately.

But, at least they’re still alive, right? What about the ones who aren’t, though? What about the ones who’ve committed suicide because their depression has been exacerbated by quarantine or because they can’t get access to mental health treatments or because a telemedicine visit with their therapist was not sufficient? What about the ones who died from abuse or neglect because they weren’t going to school and no one noticed their bruises and there was no food at home?

I don’t have the solution, but what I do know is that what we are doing now is NOT IT. There are victims of the virus and there are also VICTIMS OF THE RESPONSE. When do we start talking about them? When do we get just as pissed off about their situation as we are about people who don’t want to wear a mask? When do we start implementing policies to keep them safe?

When do we flatten their curve?

Three weeks later…

Three weeks later…

About three weeks ago, I made a decision to intentionally stop focusing on my nutrition and tracking my food. I was slipping into some old, very disordered habits and I could feel myself sinking back into that mindset of all or nothing. So, while I continued with my workouts, adjusting a bit for two rounds of strep throat, I pretty much gave up control over what and when I was eating. I stopped intermittent fasting, tracking macros & calories, and allowed way more processed foods in than usual.

It’s been a bit of a struggle. I remind myself almost daily that IT IS PERFECTLY OKAY to eat like this if I want to. It’s my choice. I know what crappy food does to my body (and my mind) and if I choose to eat it anyway, then I can damn well do so. But it’s hard to shut off the diet culture noise. The steady stream of thoughts that have been ingrained in my brain since my early teens.

This morning when I could barely button a pair of pants that fit well a month or so ago, I thought UGH. I feel like busted biscuits. I feel heavy and bloated and I do not have the same energy in my workouts despite two scoops of my pre-workout. I just feel…..UGH. Before I started writing this post, I went to my FitTrack app to see how much weight I’ve gained in the last three weeks. I assumed it was somewhere between 7-10 pounds. That may sound like a lot for just three weeks, but I know my body. I can LOOK at a donut and gain five pounds.

The difference from three weeks ago to today on the scale? THREE POINT SEVEN POUNDS. I looked at it several times to be sure. A little less than four pounds?! SHIIIIIT…..I can gain that in a weekend!! That’s nothing but water weight! Maybe my workouts have helped or maybe I haven’t really been eating as poorly as I thought, but whatever it is…four pounds is nothing. Will I use that as an excuse to just keep on like I’m doing? Honestly, I might in my weaker moments.

But here’s what I’ve learned over the last few years. Weight loss (or gain) is only one very small component in overall health. It’s certainly not a very good measure of health either because I feel like absolute garbage despite having only gained 3.7 pounds. I have low energy, my sleep has sucked (okay the strep throat and my husband’s snoring haven’t helped that either), my skin looks gross and I’ve even had mood swings. I just don’t feel good.

I’m not going to jump back into fasting and tracking because that’s a surefire way to fail. I’m just going to start adding back in more veggies, cutting down on sugars and maybe decreasing my eating window a little bit each week. I’m going to pay attention to how I FEEL and not how I LOOK.

Health is not a before and after picture. There is no after. You can’t complete a workout program or diet and say “There. Now I’m healthy.” Anyone can GET healthy. The work is in STAYING THERE.

Just eat the donut

Just eat the donut

Do these donuts scare the ever-loving crap out of you? If you walked into work and saw two dozen of them sitting on the table in the break room, would you instantly be aggravated that someone did this to you? Would you stare at them longingly and then try to pump yourself up to maintain your willpower ALL DAY and stay away from them?

Yep, me too.

Or, that used to be me too and I still had those feelings for a fleeting moment this morning. Then I let that shit go, because I am a grown woman and if I want a freaking donut, I CAN HAVE A FREAKING DONUT.

About a week or so ago, I became very aware that my attention to my diet (I HAVE a diet, I am not ON a diet) had been spiraling into an increasingly disordered place. I was trying so hard to “eat well”. I was depriving myself big time and that is always a recipe for disaster.

So I stopped. No, not “just like that” and I am still working to push all those negative thoughts about food out of my head and just….eat.

I had a donut this morning. But you know what I did NOT do? (Or, more realistically, haven’t done yet because the day is still young!) I didn’t have six donuts. I didn’t tell myself that since I “ruined” today with one donut, I may as well have McDonald’s for lunch and pizza for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I might still do that and if I do, THAT’S OKAY.

I can’t live in an all or nothing state. Right now, I’m actively NOT focusing on my nutrition in order to get back to a healthier mindset regarding food. Will I gain a few pounds? Probably. Will that be the end or the world? Of course not.

Give yourself grace. In all things, but especially in health. It’s not a race, it’s not “before and after” photos. It’s doing your best. It’s managing both physical AND emotional health. And, sometimes that means eating the freaking donut.

Being healthy is easy, they said…

Being healthy is easy, they said…

Being healthy is super simple. Don’t overthink it. You just have to:

Eat clean. Eat organic. Eat whole foods. Eat raw foods. Eat grass-finished, cage free, hormone free. Whole wheat. No wheat. Low carb. No carb.

Take pure supplements, not from Amazon. Drink enough water. Not too much water. Filter it. Add minerals back in. Don’t drink water with meals. Drink water the minute you wake up.

Lift weights. Fasted cardio. Exercise outdoors. Workout at home. Go to the gym. Do high intensity interval training. Don’t do too much cardio.

Practice intermittent fasting. Use portion control. Have some willpower. Calories in vs. calories out. Not all about calories. All calories are not the same.

Use clean makeup, skin care products, shampoo. No dyes. No parabens. Organic toothpaste.

Get good sleep. Meditate. Manage stress. Stay busy. Follow your dreams. Have sex.

Stay off social media. Use social media for accountability.

Go outside. Get some sun. Use sunscreen. Use clean sunscreen. Don’t use too much sunscreen. Wear sunglasses.

Take probiotics. Refrigerate your probiotics. Take prebiotics. Supplement with collagen. Responsibly sourced. Take enzymes.

Is it any wonder that so many people say FUCK IT, let’s go drink beer and eat chips? But, here’s the thing. You don’t have to do ALL THAT CRAP. Just do one thing.

My grass-fed, grass-finished beef and cage-free eggs come from Walmart. That’s where I start.

Turn off all that noise and do something that makes you FEEL better. Do it until it becomes a habit. Then try something else. It’s not easy, and anyone who says differently is trying to sell you something. Do your research, and just….start.

Do you even rest, bruh?

Do you even rest, bruh?

Ah, the rest day. I’ve never been very good at them. At least not since daily workouts became something I NEED instead of something I was forcing myself to do. Even in programs with rest days assigned, I’ve tended to do a different workout on those days. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. If I don’t work out first thing in the morning, I use that as an opportunity to treat my body poorly the rest of the day with less than stellar nutrition choices and maybe too much wine.
  2. I feel like I need to workout to “earn” the right to eat. (This is a bullshit mindset, by the way, and I am trying like hell to change it.)
  3. I feel BLAH all day long if I don’t work out, and not just physically but I’m in a much better mood all day after a workout.

That being said, I have come to realize that rest days are important. When I was training for my first 5K in October/November, I put a hurtin’ on my body. I NEEDED the rest days, so I took them. It was only a 30-day program and at the end of it, I felt stronger than I had with any other program. Plus, I ran a 5K in under 30 minutes (and I had never run a day in my life before that program!).

I’ve heard it many times: if you’re serious about your training, then you need to be serious about your recovery. Rest days are where the magic happens. Rest days are when your body actually changes.

I didn’t take the prescribed rest day Sunday and ended up with strep throat (okay, this was unrelated to my stubbornness about rest days but still the timing was pretty legit) forcing me to take Monday and Tuesday off. I probably could’ve worked out yesterday as my strep was pretty mild and my throat felt much better when I woke up. BUT, my body was fighting an infection. It was already working hard. There was no good reason to put it through even more stress with a workout.

So, I rested. And now I’m back at it! I won’t take the two prescribed rest days this week since I already took two and I’ll be back on track for Week 3!

I’ll sleep to that!

I’ll sleep to that!

I was super stoked to learn that 9 Week Control Freak had a rest and recovery component beyond the typical cool down stretches, foam rolling and rest days. Each day has a 10-minute-ish stretch that is to be completed at night before bed to help induce good sleep.

I am a fan of sleep, but I never really understood how important it was until I read Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. It changed my sleep and my life. I was addicted to OTC sleep aids for nearly a decade. I struggled with insomnia for many years; I just couldn’t shut my brain off at night no matter what I did. Until I found the sleep aids. But of course, like any medicine, you build a tolerance. At one point, I was taking 200mg of diphenhydramine every night. It would knock me out but I would still wake up groggy in the morning and feeling almost hung over. Training my body to sleep without meds was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, probably second only to unmedicated childbirth (yeah, I did that and no, it wasn’t because I wanted to!).

There are so many incredible benefits to good sleep including better brain and immune system function, improved mood, appetite and blood sugar regulation, increased productivity and performance and better memory. I’m not going to go into the science of how sleep does all that (and more!) for you because I could never explain it better than Sleep Smarter. Seriously, go buy that book y’all!

But here’s another fascinating benefit of sleep that I learned recently. Only 16% of fat is released from the body via sweat, urine and other fluids while 84% is released via your lungs when you breathe out. ONE-THIRD of your total fat loss occurs DURING SLEEP. If I had to rank the biggest contributors to weight loss and healthy living, sleep would be #2 (after nutrition). It’s more important than exercise or stress management or supplements or any of the other healthy lifestyle behaviors. Proper nutrition and sleep are the biggest game changers when it comes to health.

“You can sleep when you’re dead” is no longer a cute colloquial that I tell myself when I want to binge on Netflix. Nope. Sleep is a non-negotiable and I prioritize it like my life depends on it…because it does!

Change is a process, not an event

Change is a process, not an event

Day 1. The easiest day of any workout program. Not because of the actual workout, but because you’re totally pumped to do it. After a pretty terrible night’s sleep (the hubs has a bad case of strep and his swollen tonsils cause him to snore. Loudly.), I practically sprang out of bed this morning excited to get started. Motivation is easy in the beginning but it doesn’t last.

That’s why you need discipline. And habits.

I’m pretty good at getting out of bed at the butt crack of dawn to work out. I don’t skip many days and when I do, I miss it. I miss the workout but mostly the feeling after the workout. That high is for real, and I chase it. It wasn’t always like that for me. When I first started working out three years ago, it took a shit ton of discipline and I was motivated by my looming wedding date. But after the wedding, after I had fit into the dress and looked amazing, I still needed that high. I was hooked.

My struggle has always been nutrition. Consistent, healthy eating. This is where I need discipline. And habits.

I saw this quote today and it spoke to me. I’m going to write it down and hang it somewhere I can see it every day.  

Which one do you struggle with? How do you stay on track?

Back on that new year, new me bullshit

Back on that new year, new me bullshit

I keep seeing these posts on social media telling people (women, really) to stop making resolutions they won’t keep. A very popular Beachbody super trainer has even put out a “No Resolutions Pledge” urging people not to make a short-term resolution but to take control of their health for the long-term. I understand the sentiment.


Why can’t we stop telling people (women, really) what to do with their bodies? Are we actually shaming women for making resolutions? A little bit, yeah. Listen, I totally understand that’s not the point of the No Resolutions Pledge but it kinda is. Instead of just saying “you do you”, they’re saying “do it my way or you’ll fail just like last year and the year before and the year before”. It’s diet culture. And it fucking sucks.

I’m making resolutions. Some pertain to health and fitness, others do not. I have a system in place to track my progress on my resolutions, adjust if necessary and basically get shit done this year. And if I don’t succeed, I’ll just keep trying. Ironically enough, my fitness resolution includes the new workout program put out by the aforementioned #NoResolutions2021 super trainer! I’m gonna resolute the shit out of it!!

Which really helps me make this point: YOU DO YOU. Don’t let other people dictate the choices you make about your life, especially about your health and fitness. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is no one-size-fits-all diet or exercise program. Just because a program or diet worked for one person (or hundreds or thousands of people!) does NOT mean it will work for you. At least not for the long-term. You can start with someone else’s program or diet and make it your own though. Educate yourself and then TRY EVERYTHING until you find what works. Also, when you find something that works for you, understand that it may not always work. You will very likely need to change things up at some point. Be flexible.

Alright, so here’s my plan starting Monday. The workout program is 9 weeks long (it’s called 9-Week Control Freak if you want to look it up) and has three phases of three weeks each. I am going to use that structure to test out different diets. I’ll test a ketogenic diet in the first three weeks, followed by the M.A.D.E. diet for three weeks and then the Eat Smarter plan for the final three weeks. Keto is pretty self-explanatory but you can read about the other two here and here if you’re interested.

To keep myself accountable, I am going to post on my blog (my goal is daily but you know, life and stuff) and my social media stories. I did daily check-ins on my stories during my last workout program and the support and encouragement from my friends and family was amazing and helped so much! I’ll post progress pictures (maybe weekly or maybe at the end of each phase?) along with what is working and what is not. I’m not asking you to join me because this is MY plan, MY program and it may not work for you. Plus, I have no idea what kind of results I’ll get and I’m nowhere near qualified to promise you results. But, I would LOVE to hear what you’re doing though and how it’s going for you! And of course, if you have questions, please ask! My social media pages are linked here too if you want to follow along there.

Let’s do this 2021 thang!