Ashley Fillmore's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ashley_fillmore1/?hl=en
Inspiring success stories: https://urbanjane.co/testimonials/
Burnout Recovery Spectrum Intensive 5-Day Course (it's FREE!!): https://kerstenkimura.lpages.co/burnout-recovery-spectrum-later/
Work with me: https://urbanjane.co/work-with-me/
Simple Strength For Women: A Bodyweight Strength Training Program for Women After Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery: https://kersten-kimura.teachable.com/p/simple-strength-for-women
Is Your Metabolism Slow? FREE guide to faster metabolism: https://kerstenkimura.lpages.co/slow-metabolism/
How to Eat to Get Your Period Back: https://kerstenkimura.lpages.co/how-to-eat-for-ha/
5 Tips to Reverse Overtraining Quickly: https://kerstenkimura.lpages.co/overtraining-recovery-new/
Your Fit Personality Quiz: https://kerstenkimura.lpages.co/fit-personality/
Hormonal Fat Loss with Ashley Fillmore
Today’s guest is Ashley Fillmore — women’s sustainable fat loss coach.
The reason why I wanted to have Ashley on today is that there are so many women in my audience who have tried to lose weight or fat and done so in a very extreme way, losing their health in the process. That was me too. However, Ashley is teaching women how to change their body composition and lose fat in a healthy and sustainable way.
Ashley, tell us a little bit about your journey with weight loss and fat loss and how you ended up doing the work that you're doing today.
I wanted to hit a specific number in body fat and thought that doing so would make me very happy.
Growing up, I was never an overweight person. I was skinny, but I felt like I had more body fat than what I was comfortable with. I started losing weight, but I didn’t focus on better eating, better training, better habits; my focus was on caloric restriction.
I also had a lot of confidence issues. I became a personal trainer and thought that I have to be as lean as possible to be taken seriously. That time, low-carb diet was just coming out and very popular. After that, I went on Paleo, then cut my fat completely out. But I was never happy with the outcome.
I wanted to lose more and more weight. But as the number on the scale went lower, my happiness didn’t go up. I lost my period at 20 years old. Also my hair started thinning, I was injured a lot, I couldn’t sleep thought the night, I was literally daydreaming about my next meal… I had no social life, I never ate out and didn’t even go out on a date night on Saturdays with my then boyfriend.
Over the course of one year, my symptoms got much worse. I had to work hard in order to just maintain my weight. I got down to 107 lbs which was dangerously low.
I hit my rock bottom… I remember a moment when I was sitting in my car and busted into tears…
My clients were looking at me as being the super fit and lean trainer. 90% of them said I looked amazing, but there were also some who started getting worried about me because I was getting too thin.
I really hit my rock bottom as I was starting to feel worse and worse. I didn’t have my period for 2 years, and it took me a full year to get it back. But this rock bottom was a truly great moment for me because it made me change.
It wasn’t hard only physically to maintain that physique, but also mentally, right?
Yes. My whole life revolved around it. Starvation and overtraining take so much time and energy. You’re consumed by it all day. It was wearing on me, and I didn’t feel great the way I had hoped I’d feel. I was looking at my 107 lbs body but wasn’t happy. My body showed symptoms all along, but I I chose to ignore them until they got really bad.
How did you get out of it?
Let's go back in time a little bit.
I had started off in nutrition school but soon realized that I don’t want to treat people, I actually want to work in prevention. So I switched majors to nutrition and exercise science. I got the undergraduate degree. Then started working out as a health educator and personal trainer and at a local health facility.
I was encouraged by the owner of this facility to go on and get an advanced training in hormonal fat loss. I started to learn how the hormones should work for fat loss. For a woman, in order to lose fat in a healthy way, it’s important that your estrogen, progesterone and other hormones are functioning on optimal levels.
I was going through this training but at the same time, I was struggling my own hormonal issues. I was too far gone with the dieting and obsession with weight loss and body fat… And I realized that I’m doing everything that I shouldn’t be doing! I got my hormones checked. They were really low.
My MD just said: You should just eat more. I didn’t know what this should look like exactly. I wanted to go about it in a healthy way.
I had to gain about 15lbs. I went from two intense workouts a day to three conventional weight lifting sessions. My heart rate was generally under 130 beats per minute. I did no intense finishers, no HIT training, and I walked. For the first couple of months of my recovery I just walked, and then I added in weight training.
Mentally I had to grow so much to eat more and exercise less. It really forced me to grow.
A lot of women have had the same story. Many people stop exercising completely. But you started lifting weights before your period was back, right?
I did just walking at first and also immediately brought my calories up to a maintenance which for me was about 2000 calories. I think this is important for everyone, to figure out how much they should be eating. So I increased my calories, decreased my exercise, slowly added back strength exercise but was really careful keeping my heart rate down and not stressing my body. My weight slowly went up. I took a gradual approach, because it was easier on my psyche. Adding some strength training sessions allowed me to gain some muscle too because I was so underfed before.
That’s so interesting. Just this morning I interviewed someone who did it very fast. She jumped in quickly and started eating whatever, because she just wanted her fertility back. Ashley, on your Instagram, you talk a lot about individualized approach. That’s why it’s important to work with a goal who figures out the best approach for you. Even though the outcome we want is the same, the way how we get there can be different. There’s no right or wrong, there’s just individual preferences.
Looking back, I see that a lot of my struggles, all the dieting etc had a lot to do with my low self confidence. I was holding onto certain numbers because they were my identity. Slow and steady was better for me and easier mentally.
I also wanted to get pregnant. I had gotten married and my husband and I had decided we want to have kids, but I couldn’t get pregnant and it didn’t happen until my periods got regular. We tried, but it did’t happen. After my weight got stable, my periods got regulated. It just took a bit longer.
You mentioned the importance of hormones in women’s fat loss. The method you’re using in order to help women lose fat is called hormonal fat loss. What exactly is hormonal fat loss?
Your hormones are impacting the way you burn your energy, your metabolism, your fertility, monthly cycle, sleep — everything we don’t really even think about in our day to day life. Also our energy, mood and how we store and lose body fat. My approach is to balance out your nutrition, exercise and your lifestyle factors, and the last thing is supplements.
Sometimes a client needs just cleaner eating and a consistent strength training protocol.
When we hit 35-40 years old, a lot of things change and losing fat becomes harder. Our estrogen drops down, we’re more stressed, we push ourselves harder. All the hormones — estrogen, progesterone, thyroid hormone, cortisol — can work with you or against you. And that affects body fat. Having a healthy body fat percentage is part of a good health.
If we’re not taking care of ourselves, not eating well, not training appropriately, not managing our stress — they can work against you and you don’t feel well. You may be storing fat around your abdomen, love handles etc, you’re not sleeping well or are waking up throughout the night, you’re going through menopause and it feels horrible…
Hormonal fat loss helps you to eat in a way that helps you support an optimal hormonal function through healthy diet and exercise. Not only are you able to lose weight (if you have this goal), you also sleep better, you’re using the bathroom more regularly, your cycles are more regular, libido is coming back… so it’s about overall health and not just isolating the weight loss or fat loss.
So when you’re truly healthy, you should have the right amount of body fat (or, rather, the right range) of body fat.
How do you help a person who, for example, has some hormonal issues, isn’t sleeping through the night, has irregular periods etc, but wants to lose some belly fat?
If there’s a hormonal issue, this has to be addressed first. First thing is to assess why there is the hormonal issue. Generally when someone approaches me, they have an idea what might be going on. Maybe they’ve heard of adrenal fatigue, estrogen dominance, hypothyroidism or they’ve been diagnosed with any of these things. So generally they know that they may have this issue, this hormonal imbalance. We start to take everything apart step by step, from what they eat, how they exercise, to their lifestyle habits. Within 10 minutes reading through the assessment, I see where the problems are.
The foods that they’re eating might be off, their exercise doesn’t work, the environment they’re in isn’t supportive, their sleep routine is off, they may be drinking too much… I see where the red flags are and we start to tackle those. We generally tackle one thing at a time, 3-4 may be too many at once. And things start getting better instantly.
Some women have their hormone testing, like the DUTCH test, done. Some people don’t know 100% if they have a diagnosed hormonal condition, they just check off most of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, estrogen dominance, hypothyroidism. If things don’t get better, they get further testing done.
I like this approach a lot. You don’t go after calories, or even worse, make their workouts more intense as long as the hormonal issues are not corrected.
Do you ever see women having unrealistic, too big weight loss goals that you know would cause them many symptoms of overtraining and hormonal imbalances?
Yes, I see this a lot. I spend a lot of my time not only coaching nutrition and fat loss, but also mindset. I see many women who want to lose a certain amount of weight in a too short time period, but also want to simply lose too much.
We spend a lot of time re-evaluating our goals. A lot of times we think that if we don’t achieve this goal, we’re a failure…
I like to talk about the science of fat loss. If someone who is 120 lbs wants to lose 20-30 lbs, I break it down step by step why this is not a great idea. Maybe they want to change their body composition and put on muscle mass? For that, we need a different approach, because it's not about fat loss, this person has really no weight to lose. There shouldn’t be caloric restriction in this situation.
I like to use other metrics to measure my client success. Let’s keep your goal in mind but let’s also focus on circumference measurements, your strength training, are you getting stronger, are you working out consistently, are you eating better… You have to set your clients up for wins in other categories because the scale is going to go up and down no matter who you are.
How do you make sure that the metabolic and hormonal issues that someone had in the past as a result of extreme dieting, never come back?
Before we start weight loss, we address my clients hormones. That often means adjusting nutrition: How much they eat, when they eat, what they eat making sure they’re eating enough. We’re not even weighing or measuring food at this point.
Next step: Are you in a caloric deficit? I would say about 50% of my clients with hormonal issues are under eating. So we have to reverse diet from there.
At that point, it’s a good point to start doing real fat loss. But hormones have to be take care of first.
I love this approach — you really take care of the hormones first before you even consider weight loss. What are some of the things you see women doing wrong when they want to lose fat?
Cutting calories way too much. It’s really concerning how many women are under eating, eating under their BMR or at their BMR, and still steadily gaining weight. They may gain 0.5-1 lbs a week or sometimes 2-3 lbs a month while eating very little food.
Also, not being patient and chaining the program too quickly. You’re on a program for 2-3 weeks and not seeing results, you change your program — that’s a mistake too.
I’ve also seen that if you have hormonal issues, fat loss doesn’t occur that early, so having a coach who can manage your expectations and tell you that it’s actually normal that because of the hormonal issues, you’re not seeing results as quickly as you’d like.
Lastly, overtraining — primarily adding in more cardio. Not too many women come to me saying they added in more strength training. It’s usually more cardio.
So, under eating, switching programs too soon, and overtraining are the three main things women do wrong when they want to lose weight.
After the hormonal issues are better under control and you can start focusing more on weight or fat loss, how do you do it? Is tracking always necessary or is it possible to do it without tracking?
It is possible to do it without tracking too. About 50% women track and the rest don’t. After the years of coaching, I can confidently say that you can reach your goals with our without tracking. It depends what works for you.
Most of my clients lose weight as they clean up their diet, address their lifestyle, and exercise right. So I don’t necessarily have to switch over to fat loss mode. We going in that direction anyways because we’re starting to feel better, losing inches, etc.
Macro tracking is very helpful in order to make sure to get the food right. It was so important for me personally too when I was recovering from my issues. It helped to make me sure I’m eating enough. It was truly critical for me — I weighed and measured everything religiously for the full year, to make sure I’m eating enough. Because when you under eat for such a long time, you feel full very quickly. I used to feel full at 1500 calories, but then realized that I have to eat 100 more grams of carbohydrates, or I need more fat today… It was really eye opening.
But some people have been through so much dieting or have used the macro tracking in an unhealthy way so that they just can’t do it. That’s why with some clients we do a food log but we don’t calculate calories or macros. So it’s different for everyone.
I think a lot of people think that tracking is always obsessive. And it can be if you have a past of disordered eating. But it also depends how you use it. You can simply look at the data without attaching meanings to it.
Yes, and in my case, it actually helped me. And it has also helped many of my clients to eat enough. I agree that for weight loss, there has to be a caloric deficit, but that’s not the only thing. And sometimes I’ve had my clients bump up their calories and then they’ve started losing fat.
So with tracking, I’d say the secret is figuring out what works for you and that’s why my 1:1 coaching everything is 100% customized.
Many people believe that wanting too lose bodyweight or fat is very obsessive and should never be attempted because it means you have no self respect, it will cause you eating disorders, etc. What's your take on that?
I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with wanting to have goals. Maybe you’re carrying extra 5-10 lbs. Is it a life or death situation? No. But you just want to feel better and there’s nothing wrong about that.
I don’t believe that wanting to lose body fat means that you don’t love yourself. And I actually think that you taking care of you is actually loving yourself. A lot of people think that wanting to lose weight means you’re not confident. In my opinion, this is not true. The important question is, how are you going about it. Are you truly underweight and ignoring your body’s signs? Are you trying to starve yourself thin? But a healthy woman who just wants to lose a few inches or put on some muscle, I don’t see anything wrong with it.
I really agree with you. I feel like there’s a trend where you have to be either following a super strict diet and eat nothing outside of this diet, or on the opposite end, where you can eat whatever you want with no structure. But the true magic happens in the in between, grey area.
I agree. You have to assess your mindset. Maybe previously you had your whole identity wrapped around your body, but in reality your body has nothing to do with who you are and how amazing you are. You can still be an amazing mom, wife, trainer, coach, no matter what the number is. Your approach has to be healthy.
If you say that you really want to lose that 5 lbs but that means that you have to do another 90 minutes of cardio a day, this is where you draw the line and say: That’s not healthy, that’s taking it too far, and I’m not going to do it.
Thank you so much Ashley for your time and expertise. Where can we find you on social media?
Ashley: I’m the most on Instagram. I love IG stories and hang out there a lot.
Thank you so much Ashley for this chat!