Since my goal for this blog/website is to inspire you to find and live your version of a beautiful and fit life, I feel it’s only fair that I share my fitness philosophy, or what I like to call “fit-losophy”, with you.
Like most “fitness junkies,” I’m constantly browsing fitness blogs, magazines and websites, reading about (and pinning!) the latest workouts and diet trends.I often seek out this information because 1.) I’m interested in learning about new studies/research in exercise science and nutrition, and 2.) reading this information tends to motivate me to try something new and stay on course with my diet and fitness routine (as well as get me back on course when I happen to fall off of it). There are so many great fitness blogs and websites out there today (including this one, natch!), and I’ll be sharing some of my favorites in a later post. But sometimes even the best, most educational resources can spur us to conjure up our own unrealistic thoughts or aspirations about weight loss and/or getting “ripped.” How often do you read an article or study that says eating a certain food or performing a certain exercise resulted in an increase in fat loss among participants, and then you go out and buy that food or add that exercise to your routine with the hopes that you’ll drop 10 pounds or see results in a week? I’m definitely guilty of this. We all want the process of losing weight and/or toning up to be quick and easy, but it just doesn’t work that way. If it did, we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic. What does work is being consistent and working through challenges (both physically and mentally) over time. This is the “fit-losophy” I follow, and it’s something I learned the long and hard way.
My Fit-losophy Part 1: Small, Consistent Effort Leads to Big Results
I’ve experienced both ends of the eating disorder spectrum, first struggling with anorexia and later binge eating disorder. (You can read more about my experiences in an upcoming post). While these two experiences were the extreme opposite of one another, they developed because of similar reasons: I wanted to lose weight, and fast. With the anorexia (which I denied having at first), I figured the less I ate and the more I worked out, the faster the weight would come off. And it did. But soon food (or lack thereof) and exercise was running my life, not to mention that my friends and family were concerned about my health. When I was finally able to realize the damage I was doing to my body, I started eating healthy again and occasionally allowing myself to indulge, which felt (and tasted) sooooo good. Soon, the indulgences became a regular part of my daily diet, and it showed. I started putting all the weight I had lost back on–and then I started to panic. I thought, What will people think of me? I’m such a failure. I’ll never be able to stay skinny. I wanted to get back on track and fast. But after denying myself food for so long, and then getting to enjoy it regularly, my relationship with food had become even more twisted and out of control than before. I’d go through periods of restriction, thinking it would lead to quicker results and get me back in my “anorexia” mode (how demented and unhealthy is that?). But then that restriction and the guilt I felt about putting the weight back on in the first place started to wear me down and I’d give in and binge on anything and everything in sight. This was a daily struggle for several months, and I eventually ended up putting on most of the weight I had lost, reaching 186 pounds (my heaviest was 195).
With the help of therapy, and also reading the real-life weight-loss stories in women’s magazines, I slowly started to understand that if I wanted to reach a healthy weight, I had to do it the healthy way. And so I started out on my third attempt to lose weight. This time I was living away at college, which made it a little easier to stick to my diet because I didn’t have the temptation of Tastykakes and ice cream that my parents would always buy, which is what I would binge on. In addition, the apartment complex I lived in had a gym and my roommates were into working out, so exercising became part of our daily routine. There were times when my schedule was too busy and I couldn’t make it to the gym; there were times when my roommates and I just wanted to watch chick-flicks and eat ice cream; there were moments of weakness, when I’d give in and eat that brownie or order the side of fries. But those were only small setbacks. It was my consistent effort to eat healthy and exercise that resulted in me losing 30 pounds by the end of the school year. And now those consistent efforts have become natural daily habits and are what has allowed me to keep the weight off over the years.
I still indulge from time to time, and, I admit, I sometimes struggle with the guilt of giving in to those indulgences. But that’s when I remember my “fit-losophy.” Eating one “cheat” or “bad” meal every once in a while is not going to undo all of the healthy “good” meals I eat on a consistent basis. I also know that if I do indulge a little too much, I can’t restrict myself in hopes of dropping the weight faster…BECAUSE I KNOW IT WILL JUST BACKFIRE ON ME. As long as I’m patient and consistent with my diet and exercise routine, I know the weight will eventually come off.
“You won’t get fat eating one bad meal, and you won’t get lean eating one lean meal. You are what you repeatedly do.”
My Fit-losophy Part 2: You Need to Be Challenged If You Want to See Change
Another lesson I’ve learned on my fitness journey is that the biggest changes are often the result of overcoming some sort of challenge. It’s not rocket science, I know. But sometimes you never truly understand what something means until one day it finally clicks. That’s what happened to me about eight months ago. Up until that point, I was your typical cardio queen, spending anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour on the elliptical 6-7 days a week. I did this for about seven years–yes, seven years!! You think I would have been in tip-top shape, but I wasn’t. Partly because I wasn’t challenging my body, and partly because I was allowing myself to indulge in ice cream to make up for all the calories I thought I had burned earlier that day. I managed to maintain my weight, going up and down the same five or so pounds every few months. I knew I had to make a CHANGE if I wanted to see a CHANGE. And there in lies the CHALLENGE. Change is hard and uncomfortable, especially for a Type A Taurus like myself. I was comfortable with the routine that I developed and I knew what the outcome was, even though I wished for something better. I was afraid that if I focused more on strength training, which is what I really wanted to do, that I might not burn as many calories and would end up putting on weight, especially if I kept up my twice-(sometimes thrice-) weekly ice cream habit. I knew I had to make those changes if I wanted to get in better shape, but I also knew it wouldn’t be easy. And so I decided to stay in my comfort zone…for seven years.
Then a wonderful thing (actually a person) happened to me over a year ago. I met my boyfriend, Steve. Like me, he’s passionate about living a healthy and active lifestyle. He’s also passionate about lifting…heavy. He started opening my eyes to the world of bodybuilding and showed me that I can be fit and in great shape without spending hours on the elliptical AND that I can actually eat MORE food than I thought. He was just the push I needed to finally make some changes and go after my goal of a fitter, stronger body. This past January I started working out with a personal trainer (Steve had gotten me sessions as part of my Christmas gift) and I slowly but surely started to see results. On day one, I could barely do a regular push-up; today, I can do twenty in a row. My legs, which I always thought were strong, are even more muscular and toned. And my shoulders and biceps are shaping up. It hasn’t been the most pleasant, easy, or fastest (or painless) process, but it certainly has been rewarding.
While there are days when my body is sore or I’m dreading my workout because I know it’s going to be tough, I always think about how great I feel and look afterwards. I know that when I start to feel fatigued or sore, it’s because I’m challenging my muscles–to work harder or lift heavier. It’s tough, and sometimes I just want to stop and go take a nap. But I push through it and tell myself, If I’m not being challenged, I’m not going to change. No matter how hard a session is, I always leave the gym happy and in a great mood. I know the endorphins have something to do with that, but it’s also because I continue to be impressed with how strong I’ve become and how hard I’m able to push past my comfort zone. It’s a great feeling.
I continue to be challenged, and sometimes the outcome is not always victorious. There are days when I am too tired to push through an intense plyometric workout or do another burpee, so instead I hop on the elliptical and read my favorite magazines (yes, I’m guilty of doing this). I also struggle with my diet and eating habits and need to work on overcoming those mental challenges. It’s a work in progress, and I’ve gone through many ups and downs. The important part is that I learn from the downs and acknowledge that this process is not just a one-time thing, it’s a lifestyle. And once I overcome one challenge, it’s time to face another.
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” –Fred Devito
What’s your fit-losophy?