Last September, I partied with my sister and our friends at my house in Arizona for a long weekend to celebrate her 30th birthday. The weekend was amazing (flamingo floats, unicorn sunglasses, mimosas all day long…), but I remember having a tough time truly letting go and enjoying myself because it was a three-day-long pool party and I just felt…gross. I’d gotten back from spending 6 incredible months in the U.K., where I consumed quantities of beer and Indian food that would put NFL linebackers to shame.
Every time I’d eat way past the point of comfort or be forced to buy the next size up at the store (which, in the U.K., where you already have to size up TWICE, is traumatic), I’d tell myself I was just enjoying my time abroad to the fullest. In reality, I just felt so behind on all things diet and fitness that it was easier to buy bigger pants than actually work out…so, I didn’t.
I eventually ballooned to the highest weight I had ever been in my entire life. The number on the scale was terrifying, but the really scary thing, for me, was what the number on the scale really meant: the number on the scale didn’t represent pints of lager or bowls (more like vats) of curry; it represented a total lack of respect for myself. Why was I so unwilling to take care of my body when it’s the only one I’ve got?
I told myself that, after my sister’s birthday party weekend, I was gonna do better. I was going to start working out, stop eating crap and take better care of myself. So, on September 5th of last year, I bought a notebook, recorded my weight (cried a little) and wrote down every bite of food I ate, every sip of drink I took and every workout I completed. I did that every single day for three months. By November, I’d lost 30 pounds.
…on September 5th of last year, I bought a notebook, recorded my weight (cried a little) and wrote down every bite of food I ate, every sip of drink I took and every workout I completed. I did that every single day for three months. By November, I’d lost 30 pounds.
There was no trick, no fad diet: I didn’t eliminate carbs or dairy or gluten or meat or alcohol (life without red wine, no thanks.), but I did hold myself accountable for what I was putting in my body, and what I was doing with my body. At first, my workouts were designed to burn calories – as many as possible. I just wanted to take up less freakin’ space in the world, you feel me? I just needed one of my pairs of ‘fat pants’ to become too big for me, so that I could feel like I was making progress and stay motivated.
After about 6 months of working with fat loss in mind, I started to see muscles I hadn’t seen in years…triceps? Quads? Once I started seeing even a hint of definition, I was hooked: I started incorporating more and more weight training into my fitness routines, and now strength and weight training make up the majority of my workouts. I still love me some cardio (especially HIIT), but I no longer feel like I have to kill myself on the treadmill to achieve results or have a good workout.
Aside from what I’ve learned about working out, which has been a fun and challenging education that I totally didn’t anticipate when I started on this journey a year ago, the most important stuff I’ve come to understand about health and wellness is less about how strong my body is, and more about the strength of my mind. Yeah, it’s corny to say at first, but it’s true: taking better care of myself (and maybe getting a bit addicted to training along the way) has taught me things about myself that I didn’t fully appreciate before, and has helped me understand some things, too.
I’ve gained a new respect for myself and my body that wasn’t there last year while I was neglecting my health and wellness and ignoring how awful I felt about myself. I used to make excuses not to workout – I was too tired, it was raining outside, I had other things to do – but now, when I’m not feeling like going to the gym (which is, thankfully, rare – the gym has truly become a happy, peaceful place for me), I remind myself that this body – the one I’ve got – is my only opportunity to move through the world (quite literally) comfortably and confidently.
When I’m not feeling like going to the gym, I remind myself that this body – the one I’ve got – is my only opportunity to move through the world comfortably and confidently.
I used to get nervous that I would never be able to maintain this level of dedication to my health and fitness: it’s the age-old “on -the-wagon, off-the-wagon” mentality, and I worried about it because, as a woman, you see your girlfriends or your sisters or your mothers constantly worrying about their weight and shedding, then re-gaining, the same 10 pounds (or 20, or 30) over and over again their entire lives. It’s almost programmed into our brains that a healthy, fit lifestyle is unsustainable and doesn’t really exist.
I think that’s such crap. Being healthy and fit isn’t unsustainable, it’s literally the only way to actually sustain yourself, long-term. It’s not about getting a six-pack, it’s about respecting yourself enough to make better choices, most of the time…I don’t eat french fries every day or even every week (better believe I used to) but, if I’m really craving them, I’ll have some. I don’t skip workouts as a general rule (even if it means I just go for a walk) but, if my body needs rest or if I’m traveling and can’t fit it in, I take a day off, and I don’t beat myself up about it. Most nights, I have one glass of wine, or none at all, but sometimes, I just need to chug, like, half a bottle of cab sav with a girlfriend and watch all 3 Jurassic Parks and both Jurassic Worlds because #balance.
…which brings me to my little tips and tricks for implementing healthy changes into my daily life that you are welcome to try if it fits into your own health and wellness plan. These are things that I’ve figured out over the last year, and they’ve become the foundation for my current mentality when it comes to my physical and mental health.
Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full: I know, this seems like BS advice because it is so PAINFULLY obvious, but I am 100% guilty of breaking both of these ‘rules’ both when I’m ‘dieting’ and when I’m not. When I’ve dieted in the past, I was always restricting, restricting, restricting when it came to foods and calories: I would ignore hunger and feel accomplished somehow for depriving my body of food. On the other end of the spectrum, during times in my life when I haven’t been as careful with my diet, I’ve eaten any time, anywhere, without any regard for whether my body was actually hungry, and often I ate well past the point of comfort (yep, I have unbuttoned my jeans in public restaurants). My advice is almost offensively simple, but it took me a while to really implement this as part of my lifestyle: If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re full, stop.
Have a (healthy) snack: Once again, there is no need to feel good about depriving yourself of food for the sake of a ‘diet.’ No one will give you a gold medal at the end of the day for ‘only’ eating three meals (or less). I used to feel like I had to eat like a bird to have a ‘good day’ of dieting, but I’ve completely changed my philosophy: I love to eat, so I’ve been working on re-calibrating my body and mind to appreciate food instead of be scared of it. Part of this re-education has been snacking: snacking is how I teach myself that deprivation isn’t cool, and there’s no reason to be afraid of food. Eating good, healthy, clean foods (most of the time) will only help your body, not hurt it. My go-to’s are overnight oats, beef jerky, low fat string cheese, raw almonds, hummus and veggies and low-cal protein bars.
Create a mantra for yourself: I am a BIG believer in positive self-talk, guys. I think it’s a super effective way to motivate yourself and overcome hurdles and ‘off-days.’ My personal mantra came to me accidentally one day while I was running outside: I was having a bad run…my legs felt heavy, I was moving slowly and all I wanted to do was STOP. I thought if I stopped I’d be disappointed in myself, so I kept running, and my mind just kind of took over…I found myself thinking “if for some reason I wake up tomorrow and I can’t run anymore, I’m gonna really regret stopping right now…I should just appreciate the fact that I’m out here at all.” I don’t know exactly why, but that just resonated with me and it’s become the thing I repeat to myself whenever I’m having a hard time getting or staying motivated to be active. My advice: stay positive! Be your own hype-man (or hype-woman)! It makes a big difference, I promise.
Plan a few of your weekly workouts ahead of time: I don’t know about you, but crossing items off a ‘To-Do’ list is one of my favorite freakin’ things in the world. It just feels good. Checking the box next to ‘do laundry’ or ‘get groceries’ transforms those every day tasks into Olympic-level accomplishments, as far as I’m concerned. I treat my workouts in much the same way. I plan about 5 workouts at a time, and I just write ’em all down in a notebook (“Monday: Legs and Stairs, Tuesday: Shoulders, Wednesday: Abs and Incline Walk,” and so on). I keep the list on my desk, where I see it every day. After I complete each workout, I cross it off the list. I don’t know what kinda magic it is, but man does it feel good. I recommend giving it a go and seeing if it makes a difference for you.
Be annoying: Tell everyone your fitness goals – shout it from the rooftops, write it in a group text, post it in a message board at your gym, talk to a friend about it…just be excited about it! Taking care of yourself and wanting to improve your health and well-being is some cool-a** stuff and I guarantee your friends and family (and maybe even complete strangers) will be supportive of your goals. The support of my family and friends last year was a huge motivation to me, plus: telling some people about my goals really kept me accountable. It’s a lot harder to justify skipping three workouts in a row when you’ve got people asking you how they’re going. You might feel like you’re annoying but, if it helps you achieve your goals, who cares?