I get asked a lot of questions when it comes to diet in exercise. Usually it’s prefaced by “I’m doing this cleanse” or “I started this diet…” or “I bought this video and…”
But more often than not, it ends with “…but it’s not working.”
You can spend all day searching Pinterest and finding “Healthy Crockpot Recipes” or “9 Ways to Get that Killer Body!” instruction manuals that, if you do them every day (or cut out one new thing everyday) will definitely leave you looking like this:
But real talk–Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t even look like this.
Okay, so that being said–I often get asked questions about what someone, especially women, should be doing in order to lose weight (which is always the heart of every question I get asked, despite my own weight having stayed the same for the last 3 years), and honestly I feel a little overwhelmed by it.
Not because it’s hard or impossible or because these beautiful people who come to me in earnest wanting to know how they can shed however many pounds have absolutely no hope at ever achieving their goals, but rather because that one simple question is so very, very loaded.
Do you want me to tell you what my schedule currently looks like? Because I would do that happily–lift heavy and squat every damn day. 5 months ago it looked like 11 cardio sessions a week. A year ago it looked like a goal: train for a Sprint triathlon. 2 years ago it was to get comfortable in the gym. 3 years ago it was CrossFit all the way. 4 years ago it was train for a half – marathon. 5 years ago it was train for a 5K.
What about diet? I’ve tried everything. Lemon cleanses, HCG shots (twice!), diet pills, extremely restricted diets (with interspersed periods of hardcore binge eating). I’ve cut out red meat, lactose, and attempted vegetarianism (ha!). I’ve cut sugars, gone Paleo, and everything else under the sun. What do I do now?? Now, I subscribed to the If It Fits Your Macros mentality and eat whatever I want in moderation.
Do you see it? Do you see why there’s no good answer to your question? It’s because I cannot pinpoint exactly which step was the key step to changing things for me. The truth is, leading a healthy lifestyle is a complete evolution.
And I totally understand if those of you who are reading this in hopes of finding guidance now want to punch me in the face.
I don’t know that I could quantify the amount of rage, desperation, and hopelessness I felt every time I heard “It’s a lifestyle change” or “you just don’t want it enough.” If I could, it would likely be equal to the number of tears I’ve shed over it (read: “lots and lots”). But the problem is that on this side of things, I can look back and see where I wasn’t changing my lifestyle–I would make semi-permanent changes for a few months, always “waiting” to get back to when I could eat Chees-its by the box again. I mistook difficulty for intensity and drastically overestimated my exercise. But at the time I wanted it so bad I could die!
Precision Nutrition has an amazing article on the “cost” of getting lean that I would encourage everyone to check out. It weighs out the trade-offs required at every level of fitness in a way that makes it easier to set reasonable goals. The truth is that for me, I wanted to be thin so bad I couldn’t stand it, but I wasn’t willing to make the trade-offs necessary. I thought I was. I thought I understood, and I thought that if I just stuck to one more diet this one more time then finally (FINALLY) I would lose that 20 lbs and stay there in a maintenance phase eating cupcakes forever.
I’ll tell you how it happened for me. I started slowly and by setting one goal and then let those goals evolve as I got better. I received full support from my spouse. I adjusted my goals in a way that was realistic for me–I ditched “wanting to be thin” for “wanting to improve,” “wanting to be happy,” and “being kind and patient with myself while I lose excess body fat slowly and sustainably.” And you know what happened? I started reaching my goals… and then I went on to set new ones.
Now I set specific goals around activities that I enjoy. I like competing in triathlons, so I train for those. I love lifting, so I set goals built around that. I teach yoga and climb mountains as active rest days because I enjoy these things.
So if you hate running, don’t run. If you like feeling strong, then join a gym and start lifting. It doesn’t matter as long as you find something you enjoy because then and ONLY THEN will you not mind exercising. It won’t be a “burden” that you have to “work into your schedule.” You’ll do it because you like it and it makes you feel better, reduces stress, and regulates your mood/appetite/metabolism/whatever.
That’s when the magic happens — once you love something, you’ll start doing what you have to to get better at that activity. Your mentality shifts. All of a sudden, you won’t mind the strength training it takes to sustain your running habit or the clean eating it takes to keep you from feeling like crap on a bike ride. Then you can go to girls night and say to no cocktails–or have one because you’re training hard enough that it doesn’t matter. Then you make great friends that want to see you succeed. Then you focus on performance and all the “increased fitness” is just a cherry on top.
In short, there’s no right or magic way. I can’t offer you a diet supplement or workout guide that will help you drop 20 lbs. I can tell you what won’t work–anything that looks or feels like a fad, anything that promises to be quick, and anything that offers to do the work for you. It’s not enough to want it–you have to fall in love with the process.
In conclusion, here are pictures of me being happy, incredibly healthy, strong, accomplishing goals, and coincidentally not weighing 115 lbs.*
*This is not meant to exclude or shame anyone for weighing 115 lbs–this was a goal for me once that I realize now (photos shown are at/around 160 lbs) was unrealistic and ABOVE ALL not a required component for happiness.
PS if you do or think you might love lifting and you’re looking to join a gym in the Bville area, check out the Pure Health Performance page. #shamelessplug