“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”
Megan Long is an NPC Nationally-Qualified competitor, wife, and busy CPA. Her fitness journey is one that inspires women to be strong and confident in themselves and in the weight room. In this interview, Megan opens up to share her fitness and nutrition regimen, how she deals with Hashimoto’s disease, and her secret to getting a lean and ripped mid-section.
FitRX: Hi Megan! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. Can you start off by telling us a little about yourself?
Megan: Of course! I’m a NPC bikini competitor in my third year competing, and first year competing at the National level. I live in Nashville, Tennessee, with my handsome husband Kevin. I run a blog, 6ftFit.com that has everything from macro-friendly recipes, to favorite workouts, to my weekly Competition Prep Diary.
In my “other life”, I’m a CPA and have a successful corporate career. I think doing both makes me better in each realm. My corporate experience has really helped elevate my fitness brand, and my dedication to the sport has translated into me being more disciplined in the office, and more efficient and productive with my time.
FitRX: You did have a lot of success competing in the NPC this year! How did you get into competing?
Megan: Thank you so much – this has definitely been my best season yet! I kind of stumbled into competing as a way to take control of my health. Growing up it was always the joke of my classmates that I was the “sickly one”. I seemed to always be ill or coming down with some sort of infection. I was finally diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in high school, but never really made an effort to improve my health. Once college came, I was too busy partying to care about taking care of myself. My lifestyle caught up with me in 2011 when I ended up being hospitalized for severe pneumonia and a 104 degree fever that wouldn’t break. The doctor tested me for HIV twice because my body was so unresponsive to the infection. This was the wake-up call that I needed, and I made it my mission to finally become healthy.
I did a total overhaul of my diet and started eating “clean”. I was dating my husband at the time who was into weight lifting. I would ask him a million questions – from exercises to protein powder – and I fell in love with the gym. After making this my lifestyle for about a year, competing seemed like the ultimate statement that I had taken control of my health. I made it my New Year’s Resolution, hired a coach, signed up for a local NPC show, and never looked back.
FitRX: Congratulations on your lifestyle transformation! I read about the disease that you’ve overcome on your website. And I am so glad you and your doctor found the medication that works for your Hashimoto’s. Does dealing with Hashimoto’s make your training or nutrition any different?
** Hashimoto’s disease is a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid. The thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system, which produces hormones that coordinate many of your body’s activities. The resulting inflammation from Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, often leads to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.**
Megan: I really am lucky that I now have a fantastic doctor that knows endocrinology, and we’ve found a medication and dose that works really well for my body. Since my diet isn’t extreme or restrictive to begin with, my training and nutrition don’t change, but I am very open with my doctor who knows that I’m a bodybuilder. Since my medication is dosed based on bodyweight, we do regular bloodwork to make sure it doesn’t need to be adjusted as I diet down, or gain weight in the offseason. I do also make sure to make sleep a priority, just because I tend to have a harder time fighting off infections. Rest and recovery is always important during competition prep, but especially when there’s an autoimmune disease involved.
FitRX: That takes a whole different level of dedication than the average competitor. What does your husband and family think of you competing?
Megan: I have to admit, I was nervous at first as to what they would think of me posing on stage in a tiny bikini! For people unfamiliar with bodybuilding, it can seem a little risqué. I am so blessed with how supportive everyone is, from my parents, to my in-laws, to my Grandma! My parents come to every show within driving distance, and have really become experts in the sport. They can spot the best glute-ham tie-in on a stage full of bikini competitors, and enjoy joining in the post-show feasts!
My husband Kevin is a musician, and we really support and encourage each other’s passions. I joke that he’s my “Stage Husband”. He travels to every competition with me, video records my posing, and I can always hear his voice yelling my number in the crowd. He keeps me focused and is always there for a pep talk (or tough love) when I need it most.
FitRX: That’s so great to have unconditional support! One of the things I really like about your blog and Instagram is how open and honest you are about your journey. You share a lot on your IG page about your flexible dieting (IIFYM) lifestyle. What was it like prepping for a show using IIFYM?
Megan: When I first started competing, I hired an online coach that immediately put me on a cookie-cutter meal plan and gave me a long list of off-limits foods. I quickly learned first-hand that these kind of diets can lead to a cycle of binging and restricting, orthorexic tendencies, and a fast rebound once you go off the diet. After my first season competing (and firing that coach), I discovered Dr. Layne Norton, and began learning everything I could about macronutrients and the science behind dieting & bodybuilding. My current coach, Paul Revelia, coaches by these principles as well. He provides me with my macros – protein, fat, and carbs – and I get to choose what I eat I when.
FitRX: You really do seem to stay in great shape all year, even in offseason, so your plan is definitely a great fit for you! What does a typical day of food look like for you?
Megan: Calories and macronutrient breakdowns are so personal, and depend on so many variables, that I keep my exact numbers to myself. However, an example of full day of meals on competition prep would look like the following:
Preworkout: Rice cakes & whey protein
Breakfast: Sweet egg white omelette with cinnamon & Splenda, All-bran cereal with unsweetened cashew milk, and berries
Lunch: Chicken breast, zucchini, summer squash, and white rice seasoned with Braggs Liquid Aminos
Dinner: A GIANT salad made of spinach with chicken breast, fat free cheddar cheese, tomato, cucumber, salsa, and guacamole
Nighttime Snack: Protein waffles (protein powder, 1 egg, tsp of baking soda, and cashew milk) topped with natural peanut butter & Walden Farms syrup
As you can see, most Flexible Dieters don’t just eat Pop-Tarts and ice cream (even though we sometimes like to flaunt that we can on social media). It’s really just a way to live restriction-free, and fit in the foods you love!
FitRX: That’s so true! And you seem to have a good relationship with food as well. You have an awesome website as well where you share your recipes. What is one of your favorite healthy recipes?
Megan: I love finding ways to take foods I love and make them “macro-friendly”, or “diet-friendly”. During prep, I no longer had the macros for heaping bowls of oatmeal each morning, but I still wanted the same warm texture as oats for breakfast. I had tried faux cauliflower oats before, and hated them! But, with a couple tweaks to the recipe and cooking method, I finally found the perfect way to make faux oats that fooled my oatmeal-loving taste buds.
N’OATS CAULIFLOWER OATS
3 cups unsweetened cashew milk
500g raw cauliflower (usually this is one head)
3 tsp cinnamon
6 servings (276g) of liquid egg whites
Zero calorie sweetener of your choice
1. Cut up the cauliflower into florets and place into a food processor or blender. Pulse your food processor or blender a few times until the cauliflower looks like rice. Pour your riced cauliflower into a saucepan and cover with the cashew milk. Stir in the cinnamon and your zero-calorie sweetener of choice.
2. Bring to a boil, and boil/simmer for at least 30 minutes to soften the cauliflower (this may seem excessive but it makes all the difference!)
2. Once the cauliflower is soft, lower the heat and stir in the liquid egg whites. It should thicken a bit, but the cooked egg whites should not be visible (not like scrambled eggs in your n’oats).
4. Top with more cinnamon & syrup if desired!
Macros per serving: 9gP/7gC/1gF
FitRX: So you can make that, and be set with breakfasts for the week! In addition to your diet, what is your training schedule like?
Megan: I like to mix strength & power training with traditional hypertrophy. I have two “power days” that focus on the “Big Three” lifts: squat, deadlift, and bench press. These days are HEAVY and in a low rep range. Later in the week I have three Hypertrophy days that are in the more traditional bodybuilding rep range (10-12 reps) and a lighter weight. These days are broken up into back & chest, legs & glutes, and shoulders & arms. I’ve really seen a huge transformation in my physique since I started training in this style, and it’s been really fun being able to pull heavy weight in the gym!
FitRX: Your waist is so tiny and RIPPED! What is your best tip for someone looking to get a tight/defined tummy?
Megan: I get questions and comments about my waist all the time! I hate to say that my 24” waist (which is especially small on my 6’0” frame) is all thanks to genetics.
However, you can build your shape! The best way to give the illusion of a smaller waist is to think of an hourglass, or the letter “X”. The reason the middle looks so small is because of the wider top and bottom. So, if you build your shoulders, back, and glutes – the top and bottom of the hourglass – your middle will look smaller.
Megan’s Ab Workout: (she does this 3 times a week)
10 Weighted Decline Crunches
20 Russian Twists
Rest 30 seconds
FitRX: Awesome, thanks for sharing! I’ll have to try that workout. What is the best piece of advice/wisdom you’ve ever received and can pass on to our FitnessRXwomen readers?
Megan: Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
One of the things I love about fitness is that there is no finish line – there’s always room for improvement. That being said, comparing yourself to someone else that’s farther along in their journey can be a huge motivation killer, and social media is a breeding ground for comparison. Sure a woman may have better glutes or run a 5k faster than you, but maybe she’s been training for years longer. You’ll get there in due time! Just make sure her success isn’t stealing the joy from yours.
FitRX: Great advice! Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
Megan: Growing up as tall as I am was very awkward, and kids can be mean. It took me a long time to feel comfortable in my own skin. It wasn’t until I started lifting weights and being able to sculpt and mold my body that I began to adore and appreciate it. I’ve talked to a lot of women that feel uncomfortable in the weight room because it’s full of men, or because they don’t want to “look stupid” doing an exercise incorrectly. The reason I started 6ftFit was to create a community for women to confidently conquer the gym and their health together. I’m always open about the fact that if there’s a woman that doesn’t have a gym buddy, or needs an accountability partner, to email me or send me a message on social media! We’re in this together, and I’d love to be that person…and Lord knows sometimes I need that text making sure I stuck to my macros or woke up in time for cardio!
FitRX: We all need that sometime! Do you have any upcoming shows planned?
Megan: I just competed in three shows after prepping for 22 weeks, so I am entering a well-deserved “growing season”! I’ll be taking the feedback I received from the judges and my coach this year to make improvements and add some muscle to my frame for next year. I will be focusing my 2017 season on National NPC shows, competing for my IFBB Pro Card! Until then, I’m excited to reverse diet, enjoy a glass of wine, and lift some heavy weight!
FitRX: Sounds like a great plan! I hope you enjoy your much-needed off-season and best wishes to you in 2017!
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