A few weeks ago I joined a new gym, had my metabolic rate tested, and had a cardio plan to follow. Over the years, I've followed various fitness regimens and can reflect back on how they meshed with my schedule, how I felt, and if they would fit in my life now.
Right now, back pain and the desire to lean out are having a tug-o-war with my body. I'm seeing my chiropractor twice a week, but also taking it easy. I would rather workout 1-2 times a week (instead of 5) until I rebuild some strength than overdo it and be stuck on the sidelines.
It's better to build up from where you are.
Since being recognized as a Top 100 Weight Loss Blog, I find my thoughts meandering back to this side of the site more and more often. The truth is, I'm going through the same weight loss and fitness battle that you are. And yeah, I'm a dietitian. I know what I should be eating. I even know the science behind it. And I'm a certified trainer. I know how much and what type of exercise I should be doing.
But I'm also human. I found myself in this slump because I didn't recognize the role my job as a personal trainer played in my wellness. I didn't realize how key it was to maintaining the fit persona that became so intertwined with my identity that I still feel like that fitbunny at the gym - until I look in the mirror.
I understand how my past clients saw me. A perky, 18 year old college student ready to help them down the road to success, but without a clue what it was like to have your thighs rub holes in your jeans, to not recognize yourself in the mirror, or to try to fit beautiful curvy hips in a dress. But I have a clue now.
Reflection & Identification
One of the key strategies I've been using over the past few months is reflection and identification. Forty pounds (forty pounds!) snuck on to my frame in the past 3 years. How ironic is it that, as a nutrition intern, I started eating worse and working out less? I was so busy with work and with school, and I took my fit healthy body for granted, that I didn't see myself slowly spiraling to where I find myself today. Looking back, I realized that:
I quit my personal training job (~6 hours low intensity cardio and weight lifting per day + workouts) my senior year of college. I also started gaining weight that year. I was doing A LOT of physical activity with that job. It let me overeat at buffet dinners (which then pushed me to skip meals), and maintain the physique I treasured, without realizing how big of a role that extra calorie burn played. The weight gain started slowly, as I lost muscle mass, reducing my resting calorie burn.
Then the next year, during residency, stress increased, exercise decreased, and eating was sporadically healthy. I recognized food rules that were so entrenched in my mind that it felt ridiculous to have to address them so consciously. I still gained another 10 pounds.
The next year, I started graduate school. At this point, I lamented the fact I no longer fit into my size 2-4 jeans, and struggled with working out and eating out. I bounced from weeks of inspiration to dark holes where I thought, "Why bother? I'm not seeing any results." Another 10 pounds.
This last year, I embodied the "Why bother" stance. It was too dangerous to go run outside in the city, I told myself. It's better for me to eat out than to worry about not having food at home. As long as I feel OK, I don't need to exercise. I'll start after graduation. Another 10 pounds.
By breaking down the history, and connecting the dots, you begin to see the reasons that weren't apparent at the time. And you can look at your habits now in a new lens, and make a game plan.
The Battle Against the Quick Fix
I feel like a statistic sometimes. In counseling classes, we talked about the overall trend in America for adults to gradually gain weight each year, as their metabolism slows and they fail to account for it. This weight gain is exacerbated by stressful life events, poor eating habits, and sedentary lifestyles. Suddenly, everyone has gained 40 pounds. Or 50. Or 60. Now, I'm part of that group.
But I'm not depressed about it. I read an article once about a personal trainer in Australia who stopped exercising and ate only fast food in order to gain weight and be unhealthy like his clients. Then he worked his way back to fit. He learned how tough it is to get BACK in shape, and to get BACK to how you used to feel. You realize how for granted you took your flat stomach. All you thought about then was how to get more definition in your abs, not how to lose 4 dress sizes.
It comes down to this - we want immediate gratification. This reason is why the diet industry is so successful. They market quick fixes to us, and we fall for it. Because we want that. No one wants to hear "diet and exercise". But what I want to share with you is the nuances of diet and exercise and the consequences of continuing an unhealthy lifestyle.
Over the next few weeks, I hope to write to you on topics such as:
I encourage you to share your thoughts and story in the comment section. If you would rather be more private, send me an email through my contact form.
Looking forward to sharing my Journey Back to Lean with you!