This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Rachel Cosgrove. Rachel is the author of The Female Body Breakthrough, Drop Two Sizes, and is here to tell us about how we would be a lot better off flipping everything we know about female fitness on its head.
Drop Two Sizes: A Proven Plan to Ditch the Scale, Get the Body You Want & Wear the Clothes You Love! (Women’s Health)
The Slim Is Simple.org Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort
Jonathan Bailor- Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor here and so happy to be coming at you with another “bonus” Smarter Science of Slim podcast. Really have a special treat here today, we have a world renowned author and excellent trainer. A wonderful woman, living a wonderful example life, has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people. The author of the existing Female Body Breakthrough (her current book) and her brand-new, very exciting book called Drop Two Sizes coming out April twenty-third, now available for pre-order. None other than the Rachel Cosgrove. Rachel, welcome.
Rachel Cosgrove- Thank you, Jonathan. Thank you for having me on.
Jonathan- Hey, Rachel. For the few folks out there who may not be aware of what you’re doing (because I know quite a few people are aware of what you’re doing) can you give a little bit of background on your story and how you got in to the unique position you are today.
Rachel- Sure. Growing up, I got in to weight training (got in to the gym, really) from my dad. I have to give my dad credit, he took me to the gym for the first time. I actually got in doing a lot of aerobics, teaching aerobics, and then got more and more into weight training. I ended up getting a degree in physiology with an emphasis in exercise and health. Always had a passion for the human body, what it was capable of, helping people, and realized that this was what I was meant to do – coach others and help them to reach their potential. Through my own journey and really learning what works for me. My whole family struggles with their weight. Obesity has been a struggle in our family, so (for me) it’s been something that I wanted to figure out for myself. But also, as I work with clients and coach clients, figuring out what works – what works for women to get the results in the least amount of time, keep them, and maintain them for the long term. That’s really been my quest – be the best at helping women to accomplish their goals, reach their potential. We’re actually going in to our fourteenth year in business. My husband and I opened up Results’s Fitness, we’re located in Southern California. We’ve coached hundreds and hundreds of people at Result’s Fitness. It’s a co-ed gym but we do have about seventy percent women. At the gym, we consider it our laboratory – we’re able to track every single workout, track the results we get, and we’re able to try out new things. If we read something in the research that we want to try out, we can use it on ourselves. We basically have our own research and development where we can really hone in our skills, figure out what works. At this point we feel that we’ve landed on what works to use the least amount of time to get the best results. For all of our clients there, time is one of the very limiting factors in their life – so making sure that their time is used effectively and that they’re going to get the best results in the least amount of time. I’ve also had a lot of opportunities. Like you said, my book came out in 2009 -The Female Body Breakthrough. The Female Body Breakthrough was my first book, so of course I put everything in to that heart and soul, so pick up a copy of that. That really has everything in it of my philosophies, how I train women, and what I do to get the results I get. Like you said, coming up is Drop Two Sizes, which is going to be a women’s health book. I do have a column in Women’s Health magazine and work closely with Women’s Health, and Nike, and Livestrong.com. It’s been a fun ride. Definitely been busy and doing a lot, it’s exciting to see so many more women getting on board with my message and have it resonate with a lot of people.
Jonathan- Rachel, certainly we don’t want to give away the farm here, but your message is not a message of the status quo of, “just go get on the treadmill for as long as you possibly can, starve yourself and you’ll be all right. Just eat less food, be hungry, and spend all your time in the gym.” That’s not your message at all, so tell us a little bit about your message.
Rachel- Right. A lot of people are confused because they get the information, they get the advice to ‘move more and eat less. If I keep moving more and eating less, that’s going to be the answer.’ The problem with that is you’ve got to just keep eating less and less and less, and moving more and more and more because our body is so smart. Our body is constantly figuring out what we’re doing. We actually don’t use a whole lot of steady-state cardio. We try to get women to flip their priorities. When most women start an exercise program they think, “Ok. Day one, exercise one, I’m going to go ahead and head out for a run.” Really, that’s the last thing they need to start with. First of all, really making strength training their number one priority. The key with that is to build the lean muscle mass which is going to increase their metabolism. It also decreases their risk of injuries. So, if they do decide to go for a run, or do something else, they’re gonna actually be able to do it with better joint integrity and less injuries. Strength training is the number one – what we’ve found to be the best bang for your buck as far as if you have two hours a week, get in the gym, lift some weights. The strength training programs that you’ll see in my books are full body programs. It’s not a body building type of program. It’s developed to build that athletic, fit, toned physique that women want. It is a different type of approach than some of the programs that they’ve read in the magazines or maybe have tried before. They also are going to get that cardiovascular benefit, but increasing that lean body mass. Not being afraid of getting stronger and gaining muscle – muscle’s a good thing. As they do that, their body transforms and they drop body fat. It really leads to the long term results because of the increase in the metabolism.
Jonathan- Rachel, you’re out there on the front lines having dealt with thousands of individuals (specifically with a focus on women). How do you most successfully overcome that unfortunate dogma that if you train like “a man” you will look like a man? You and I know nothing could be further from the truth. You’ll look like a wonderful, beautiful, powerful woman. How do you overcome that?
Rachel- One of the things that’s worked really well is focusing on what the client wants or what the client needs. So, if your goal is to lose two jean sizes, then let’s focus on that. That has really been a huge help because if we focus on losing two jean sizes, that’s where my next book that’s coming out Drop Two Sizes, that’s what it’s all about. It’s our system of dropping two jean sizes in twelve weeks. Literally, we’ve over and over again been able to use that system to help women to drop two sizes in twelve weeks. The cool part about that is they’re not allowed to get on the scale, we don’t look at numbers. We only look at – are your jeans fitting you better? It’s literally just – let’s lift weights (full body strength training program) and every couple weeks we’re going to pull the jeans out to see how we’re fitting. Like you said, most women are actually going to gain some muscle. I think that’s actually a myth a lot of times trainers will tell females, “Oh, you’re not going to gain muscle, don’t worry.” But, women actually do gain muscle. The key is is that most of them have done crash diet after crash diet, that their muscle mass is actually so below normal that it’s a good thing for them to build muscle. We want them to build muscle because it’s actually getting them up to normal levels. You’re right – they’re never going to look like a man. That’s not in their physical make-up to go to the point where they’re going to build enough muscle to ever look anything close to manly. They’re going to still look feminine and be toned, fit, and be able to do things in their life they never could do before. Really, the key is increasing that metabolism so that they can eat. Like you were talking about – instead of starving yourself, you can actually eat, enjoy food, and fuel your body to be fabulous. That’s part of my whole philosophy is really getting that metabolism cranking and increased so that they can maintain this for the long term. I’d say the key is focusing on what their goal is. The jeans have been a huge breakthrough for a lot of my clients because it gets their focus off of the scale. I’ll tell you, the majority of women who start one of our programs, usually they’ve done two to three diets in their lifetime (at least, most women have done even more than that). So, when they start a program like ours, they do gain muscle. What we’ve seen is that they lose two sizes in twelve weeks. Which is like from a size twelve to a size eight, which is huge, you’re completely reinventing your body. But the average weight loss on the scale, when I do put them on the scale and see how much weight they’ve lost, is only four pounds.
Rachel- They are gaining that much muscle and losing that much fat that they’re dropping two sizes, but if they were just looking at the scale, they’d be really disappointed. It’s really getting them to get the focus off of the scale, focus on building the body you want, wearing the clothes you want to wear, and no longer using the scale as one of your measurements.
Jonathan- Oh Rachel, I couldn’t agree with you more. That is such a profound and liberating thing to do is to free yourself from the chains of the scale. As you know (and as your clients have experienced) oftentimes things we will do to make the scale happy, actually predispose us to storing fat. It’s literally counterproductive.
Rachel- Yeah, because it totally messes with your mental state. How many women step on a scale in the morning and that tells them that their day is now ruined? How do you let this metal object tell you you’re going to have a bad day? We see it (as trainers we see it) clients come in all huffy and puffy and you’re like, “You got on a scale didn’t you?” Of course – yep, they did. Don’t let the scale determine what kind of day you’re going to have. At this point, if you’re following any of my programs and you’re adding strength training as part of your regime, the scale is no longer an indicator for you- it’s not even worth getting on.
Jonathan- Absolutely, absolutely. Rachel, one of the things I wanted to dig in to with you is I know (especially for females) as you tend to get a little bit older, achieving the body and health you want seems to get harder and harder – especially post-menopause. This is something in The Smarter Science of Slim support group that comes up all the time. You’ll have a female who’s doing all that she can to eat nutrient dense foods and she’s doing strength training rather than chronic cardiovascular exercise. Her husband is indirectly doing those things and he is seeing all kinds of success, whereas she can’t seem to make the waist shrink. What can we do to help?
Rachel- Hormones are powerful, so that is something that we do have to be aware of. If you are dealing with hormonal fluctuations (it’s that time) then you definitely want to work with a medical practitioner. Somebody who can check your hormone levels and try to help you get them stabilized. I have to tell you, we have a number of our women (our female clients) who reach their absolute peak fitness in their 50’s. I mean – amazing. I walk in the gym and I’m like, “I can’t wait to be in my 50’s because you guys look amazing!” At that point in their life they’re confident, they’re in the gym, they’re lifting weights, they’re able to build muscle. They’ve been with us a couple of years so they have some training time under their belt. Their bodies just look great, they have high metabolism. I think part of it is – be patient. Menopause, hormones, it’s all real. It’s something that you may have a harder time in that part of your life. At the same time, decide what you have control over. The things you have control over are: one, you can increase your lean muscle mass, continue to get stronger, continue to get more fit. Two, keep your blood sugar stable. I think that’s a huge one because your blood sugar actually affects your other hormones. That’s what’s really going to keep you stable and help you to get through this faster and easier. It is just a period of time, but as you get through it (like I said) you’re going to find you may, just like our clients, be able to reach your peak in your life. These women look better than they’ve ever looked in their life and they’re either pre-menopause, in menopause, (or some of them) after menopause. They have abs, they just look great. It’s definitely possible, so don’t give up and keep in mind the things that you do have control over.
Jonathan- I love that, Rachel. Would you say, just as a way to give hope to individuals, that one of the things that’s awesome about this more modern paradigm that you’re discussing (which is all about pursuing strength rather than slowly breaking your body down with chronic, steady-state cardio) is, like you mentioned earlier, if you’re eating less and moving more, you actually have to keep doing more and more of that. Over time, the longer you do that, the harder it gets to sustain it. It’s like running on a hamster wheel or a treadmill, it keeps getting faster and faster. Whereas, when you take this more strengthening approach, both from a diet perspective and from an exercise perspective, it sounds like your clients and you personally have found, that it actually gets easier over time. The more years of this you have under your belt, the tighter your belt is going to fit.
Rachel- Yeah, absolutely. I think part of the positive of using strength training rather than steady-state cardio is the mindset as well. Most women throughout our entire lives have been told, “You can’t do push-ups – do girl push-ups. You can’t do a chin-up hanging from the bar. You can’t run a marathon.” The first woman who ran a marathon got kicked out. So it’s like, “Can’t, can’t, can’t. You can’t lift that, you’re a girl – it’s too heavy.” When women start to shift that mindset and head in to the gym, instead of, “Ok, I’m going to stay over here on the treadmill and do the treadmill shuffle because I don’t really know what else I’m doing. I really can’t lift that and I can’t do that,” and start to instead go, “You know what, what can I do?” Start to head in to the gym with that attitude of getting after their workout and really reaching their potential. Figuring out, “How strong can I get? How many push-ups can I do? What if I could do a chin-up?” They start to accomplish things they never thought they could accomplish. Then they gain confidence, they gain that positive mindset that they can accomplish anything, and then it feeds itself. Like you said, as you’re doing strength training as your workout, you’re not only developing your body and reinventing your body, I believe it also reinvents your mind and your mindset of what you can accomplish. Really putting you in a state of that positive mind where you can accomplish anything you want to accomplish.
Jonathan- Absolutely. I always say that as you accomplish those private victories in the gym (so it’s much like what Stephen Covey talks about) once you physically master your private victories in the gym, public victories (or victories outside of the gym) become all that much easier.
Rachel- Absolutely, we all know mindset. I’d say for most women, what’s holding them back is usually their mind. They have negative self-talk going on. The things they say to themselves throughout the day are really what are sabotaging their results. If they can get that mindset right…if you have the exercise and nutrition and then you add in that mindset, it’s magical, there is no stopping you. You’re going to accomplish your goals.
Jonathan- Mmm-hmm. I’m curious, Rachel, what do you say: one of the “good things” about the treadmill (or steady-state cardio) is if I’m someone intimidated by exercise, it’s pretty clear, you get on the treadmill and you walk. You get on the bike and you pedal. There’s an easy on-ramp. I think in your work, you show there can be an easy on-ramp to strength training as well. How does someone who is (potentially) intimidated by this concept, how can starting strength training be as easy as starting to walk on the treadmill?
Rachel- I think first getting a program to follow so that you are confident, you know what you’re doing, you can head in to the gym with a plan. You’re not just going in and going, “Hmm…I don’t really know what I’m doing, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what this piece of equipment is.” Realizing you can even start at home – most of the programs that I write and a lot of the really effective programs use your body weight to start anyway. Get started at home, in the privacy of your own home, if that’s something you can do – for a lot of people that’s too distracting. I do recommend making a gym membership a part of your eventual goals. I feel like if you do leave and go to a gym, find a supportive environment where you have other people who are supporting you in your goals, it will be (long-term) better for you. But, you can go ahead and get started in your home and use body weight. I actually have as part of my next book coming out, a DVD series coming out with it. You can actually do that entire workout in your home, get yourself started. Body weight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups – these are all fantastic exercises. Get yourself a TRX. That’s a great tool to hook on to your door and you can now do a ton of extra stuff. There’s a lot you can do to get started right away. Then, as you’re building your confidence and you’re ready to hit the gym (again) bring a plan. That’s my vision is that there’s women with my book walking around they gym because they have their program, they know what they’re doing, and they’re confident that this works. At that point they don’t really care what anybody else thinks because they’re on their plan and they know what to do.
Jonathan- I love it. Rachel, it’s funny at how much of a flip-flop this is. It’s almost like we have to invert our priorities. I would imagine even taking that one level deeper – let’s say we’ve got an individual, they’re in the gym, and they’ve bought in to the strength training paradigm. Should the first thing they do be to work their arms and do some crunches? Or should they maybe do something else?
Rachel- We rarely isolate a muscle group, ever. With our population, and with most women, building big biceps is not usually one of their goals. That’s not something that we really focus on. It’s more doing compound exercises, working multiple muscle groups so we’re going to burn fat. We’re also going to build the muscle and we’re really going to get your metabolism going. Initially that first workout, like I said, is usually body weight or even de-loaded. Using something like the TRX, you can de-load a lot of exercises by holding on to it and doing a squat. Now you’ve taken some of your body weight off and you can actually get more range of motion and really work on the exercise (the movement). It’s really about the basic movement. Our whole programming is built around the basic movements of the human body. That’s including squatting, pushing, pulling, lunging, twisting, and balancing on one leg. Those are all things we incorporate in to the program. Oh, and bending, did I say bending? Seven of them – basically the basic movements of the human body. That’s it, you don’t need to isolate your biceps. Crunches, at this point, are really something we don’t do at all. Instead, we do a lot of core stabilization where we’re using planks and anti-rotation exercises where you really have to stabilize your core with a load pulling against you one way or the other. It’s really about core stabilization rather than lots of crunches.
Jonathan- I think, Rachel, this is actually so encouraging because if I’m an individual who has “tried everything” – meaning I’ve tried every program that encourages me to starve myself and to just spend more hours on the stair stepper (it is fair, you’ve probably tried many, many programs that asked you to do that) what we’re talking about here is literally the opposite. You’re going to not fear calories, you’re not going to try to eat once a day. You’re going to go in to the weight room and you’re actually not going to do crunches. You’re not going to pick up small weights, you’re going to do big movements and potentially with some heavier resistance as you get more fit. You’re going to enjoy real food. By taking this completely different approach, you will get a completely different result – which makes a lot of sense and I think is pretty exciting.
Rachel- Yeah, absolutely.
Jonathan- Rachel, if you had to tell listeners three things that they could start doing today (let’s focus on the mind here) to help get their mind in a more positive place, what would be those three things they would do?
Rachel- Three things for their mindset, let’s see… First of all, it’s getting focused, getting that tunnel vision – what do you want? For a lot of people it may not be about the body, it may be that they just want to be able to function better. Keep up with their kids or grandkids (or whatever it might be), just be able to live life to the fullest – enjoy every single experience to the fullest. So, what is it that you want? Number two is the “why”. I think that is the most powerful question you can ask yourself. I think a lot of people when they set goals they may say, “Yeah, I really want to wear a bikini this summer!” But they don’t have a powerful enough reason why. So, they end up losing focus, not quite following through, and they end up beating themselves up that they never accomplished their goal. Really, the problem was they just didn’t have a powerful enough reason why. That reason why is what will pull you, like a magnet, towards your goal. If you don’t have a strong enough reason why, it’s not important enough to you. Then, in a weak moment, something comes up – you feel like just sleeping in that morning and not doing your workout (or whatever it might be)- you’re going to give in. It’s really figuring out the ‘what’ but also making sure you have that really powerful, important reason ‘why’ you want to accomplish this goal and why it’s important to you. The third step would be just spending some time visualizing yourself at that goal. Speak in the present tense and really picture yourself wearing the clothes you want to wear, looking the way you want to look, feeling the way you want to feel, whatever it is for you – whatever that ‘what’ is. Spend some time and get crystal clear on what that’s going to feel like, how great that’s going to feel. Every once in awhile I’ll tell my clients to associate something with it. Make a fist, close your eyes and picture yourself looking the way you want to look or feeling the way you want to feel. Then, anytime you are in a weak moment, take a second and make that fist and close your eyes, picture yourself so that way you won’t give in. You’ll be proud of yourself when you get through that moment. You’ll end up getting closer to that goal and pretty soon it’ll be a reality. That visualization will become who you are and your reality. Those would be my three steps to get their mindset right.
Jonathan- I love that, Rachel. I really want to dig in very briefly to what you mentioned about the ‘why’. I think that is such an under appreciated aspect of this. An example I frequently give is – you’ll notice how “easy” or quickly an individual can completely transform their lifestyle when they learn that they’re pregnant. Talk about a ‘why’! That’s a pretty obvious and visceral ‘why’ of why you need to fuel your body properly. Can you give some examples of bigger more empowering ‘whys’ that your clients have found success with? Just looking like this celebrity or some number on the scale, those are all very flaccid ‘whys’, what are some more empowering ‘whys’?
Rachel- This is a very personal question for each person, you can’t really answer for anybody. Everybody has their own powerful reason why they want to accomplish something. It’s just something for me that whenever a client doesn’t reach their goal or they stray off path, I pull them back and say, “What was your why?” I always want to know their why before we head down the journey, head down the path, that way I can remind them of that powerful reason why. Powerful reasons why could be (like I said) maybe they’ve had parents who have suffered from their health and maybe they don’t want to go down the same path. For a lot of people, as they see their parents aging and having to spend a lot of time in the hospital or struggling with getting older, they don’t want to follow in those same footsteps. That could be a huge, powerful reason why. Wanting to be (like I said) able to experience certain experiences, or part of your life, with your family if you go on active vacations. Maybe part of your family’s annual vacations is that you go skiing, hiking, or whatever you might do. You don’t want to be the one that’s in the back and everybody is waiting for you. You want to be the motivating one. That’s a huge one for a lot of my clients, they want to be inspiring for their children. They want their children to grow up and see them as a positive, strong role model who doesn’t have that negative talk. That’s something really to be aware of when you’re around your kids. What are you saying out loud, what are you saying to yourself? They model you, they look at everything that you’re doing. Like you said, whey they’re pregnant or when they have kids that look up to them, that’s something that can really become a turning point for a lot of people. They realize that it’s up to them to set this example, set the role model, and be the leader for their children. Make sure that they’re following the behaviors that they want to follow and that they want their kids to follow. How much easier would it be if you didn’t have to figure this all out now? If you learned all this as a kid growing up, you know? I always say that to my clients because a lot of times they’ll say, “Oh, you know, the kids have to have the junk food.” Well, why not start teaching them now instead of letting them have to go through all this when they’re an adult?
Jonathan- Oh, absolutely. Rachel, just to wrap up (because this is awesome), I think you touched on this earlier, but what’s your reason why?
Rachel- My reason why, honestly, what motivates me and what inspires me is seeing all of my clients. If I can inspire somebody, if I can help somebody, to make a break through everyday, then I can sleep at night. That’s what gives me my fuel to keep going and to keep getting better. Really my reason why is to be able to inspire other people. That’s what I’ve realized I’m meant to do, that’s part of who I am. I do feed off of when I see that light bulb go off in one of my client’s eyes (they get it or it was a breakthrough). If I can be that role model, that leader, and that inspiration for them, that’s what motivates me and keeps me driving to always go for more.
Jonathan- I love it, Rachel. I certainly (and I’m not the only one) appreciate the example and inspiration you give. Your message is truly that we can all be an inspiration. When we focus on that, that really provides us with that ‘why’. The ‘how’ becomes a lot more clear and the ‘what’ becomes a lot more clear. So, thank you for your inspiration and thank you for showing us that we can all become inspirations. I really do appreciate that.
Rachel- Yeah, absolutely.
Jonathan- Well, everyone, her name is Rachel Cosgrove, she is a wonderful woman. If you haven’t checked out her website, please do so, it’s rachelcosgrove.com. She’s got a book out now, which if you haven’t checked out, I would highly recommend called, The Female Body Breakthrough. Her new book coming out April 23rd, currently available for pre-order, is Drop Two Sizes. Which again, is going to help get you off that scale. Therefore, I could not endorse it more heavily. Rachel, thank you so much for joining us. Listeners, remember to eat more and exercise less, but do that smarter. Talk to you soon.