One year ago I started a new lifestyle. I promised myself that I would finally start taking care of myself through diet and exercise, and that I would no longer lie to myself about “starting next week” on a fitness plan that never came to fruition. In other words, I womaned up.
I’ve never been one to start a new year’s resolution to lose weight. That would make too much sense. Instead, I like to wait until after swimsuit season is over OR right around the holidays. You know, two times it doesn’t make any sense at all. Why would you want want to be in shape before swimsuit season arrives? In a sense, this was my brain’s way of giving me an easy time accepting whatever changes (or lack thereof) I saw in a short period of time.
I thought I’d jot down a few things that happened to me mentally and physically these past 12 months, both for those wondering what it’s like and for me to remember and look back upon. And, in case you’re looking for progress photos, I’m sorry to disappoint, but this post won’t have them. Every time I try taking progress photos after my first transformation photo, somehow I manage to look exactly the same.
I Exercised for a Year and This is What Happened
I did not see the results I expected to see
Like most people, I expected to see results immediately. Imagine my surprise when I didn’t have the results I wanted after a week of exercise. For all the work, sweat, and tears (yes, tears!) that all that effort took, the disappointment was enough to make me want to quit. I literally cried during my second workout (sit-ups, are you for real?) not because I didn’t want to finish the workout, but rather because I wasn’t able to do what I set out to in those 28 minutes.
Wanna know what kept me going? Seeing the results of women like @jaeatleta. I had a similar body shape as Maggie, and I thought for sure in 6 months I’d look like her ‘after’ picture. Spoiler alert: no, no, no, no. Not even close. It took her a little over two years to see the results I wanted to see. Once I realized that I had to be in this for the long haul, exercise became less of a chore and more of a daily habit that I did to feel better overall.
The scale went down, and then climbed up
Few things are more terrifying than putting in a lot of work and losing weight, than seeing the scale go back up again coincidentally after you eat pizza. My starting weight last year was 151lbs. For frame of reference, I’m 5′ 1.5″ (because every half-inch counts!). After four months of BBG, I lost 13lbs putting me at 137lbs. I would go down to 133lbs over the course of a few weeks, and then I stayed there for several months. I’m now up to 139lbs and it’s all due to gaining muscle.
I think it’s important to note that one year ago I was overweight on the BMI scale. Once I reached 134lbs I was in the ‘normal’ range. Right now, I am as thin as when I got married (say what?!) however I am back in the ‘overweight’ range. The difference between then and now is muscle gain attributed to weight lifting. In addition to increasing muscles mass, weight lifting also increases bone density because your body needs stronger bones to support the added stress of heavier muscles. All in all, I highly recommend weight lifting to all women. As women, our bones lose density beginning in our early 30s. My mother has osteoporosis, and I hope to do everything I can to prevent that happening to me.
My eyes got bigger
Just kidding. Kind of.
I feel like this is another one of those things that are never mentioned about weight loss, but I never realized how much weight I put on my face! The extra padding hid my eyes, making them look smaller and deeper. I also noticed that my nose and jaw became more chiseled the longer I exercised.
My eyes also got larger, metaphorically, as I all of a sudden wanted food all the time. Before exercise I was not eating much, which is what I think contributed to further weight gain on top of inactivity. I learned that I needed to eat more, WAY more, as I was averaging below 1200cal/day (excluding alcohol). My eating habits were never terrible, per se, but I didn’t eat enough nutritious food
Exercise expanded into other forms of self-care
Speaking of chiseling, all of a sudden I wanted all the makeup and became really interested in contouring. And cute clothes. And skincare. And dental health, particularly regular dental check-ups and wearing my retainers again. And teeth whitening. (Did you know that if you whiten your teeth, any small imperfection–like crooked teeth –instantly looks better?)
I never expected to have new-found habits of
self-care self-love. I never realized that I had actually been neglecting my needs because of my weight gain. I had started letting myself go because I was unhappy in my own skin. Just a few months of exercise–no where near the weight loss I wanted–I realized that I wanted to do other things to make me happy.
Yes, this all sounds superficial, but when you spend years denying yourself new clothes because you don’t want to accept your size, you end up with lots of worn clothing and nothing that fits. So long as I kept waring my larger clothes, I couldn’t really see my progress. A friend offered to take my picture at BlogHer17 and it really hit me when I saw the picture: I was a lot thinner than the self-image I had in my mind. It took me another 2 weeks to wrap my mind around my new size.
Weight-loss isn’t just physical. It also requires a shift in self-image.
What I Learned
Motivation only takes you so far
Sometimes, the urge to self-sabotage is strong. What does that mean? Well, for starters, I have an evil twin in the back of my mind telling me not to workout right before I begin. Ahem.
About two months before I began my fitness journey, I started following several fitness Instagram accounts. I did this to motivate me to begin exercise. Yet, it took me two months to finally start. Motivation only takes you so far. I saw this mentioned so many times on these Instagram accounts when asked what motivates them. In order to be successful, you need to focus your energy into making this a habit. There were so many times this past year where I did not feel like working out. Had it not been for the habit that I created, I would have stopped quicker than I began.
You can’t win when you play the numbers game
In the beginning, numbers meant a lot to me:
- The number on the scale
- The amount of calories I burned
- The amount of calories I burned with a chest-strap heart rate monitor versus relying on a wrist-based one
- The number of calories I was consuming, and
- Whether I was adhering to the appropriate percentage breakdown of carbs proteins and fats (hitting my macros)
The number on the scale was a doozy. I would see it go up if I was dehydrated (which was often). So I was diligently counting calories and working out, and I’d often see the scale go up. As long as I drank water, I saw the scale go back down.
For the first time in my life, I saw a size 4 in jeans staring back at me in the mirror. Even if they were the stretchy kind from Old Navy, this new size seriously fucked with my self image. I really couldn’t believe that I was actually that size. The smallest I have ever been has been a size 6 jeans. Of course, this led to me worrying about whether I only achieved this size because my butt went flat.
Sometimes you need a mental health break
Going along with the previous point, like all things in life, sometimes it’s good to take a step back. I started prioritizing exercise before other things, such as going out with friends or enjoying a drink.
Health doesn’t just come in the form of exercise and healthy food. Balancing the good and the bad is necessary in order to stick to your goal. Yes, the calories in alcohol and junk food may add up, but at the end of the day if you want to have a drink–or ice-cream, or chocolate, or cake, or pizza, or the greasy burger–go ahead and have it for your mental health. As long as it is the exception and not the rule, I promise that you won’t sabotage your progress. In fact, since I wasn’t eating enough to begin with, I actually saw the scale go DOWN when I ate “bad foods.”
Your body is smart. It won’t let you lose fat if you’re not feeding it enough to begin with. So eat the damned burger.
Be kind to yourself
And above all, be kind to yourself. You’re only human. Don’t expect to run full steam ahead 24/7 and not need a breather. I had two colds that knocked me down for a week a piece. Visiting family cut another week or so of exercise. Going to the BlogHer17 conference interrupted my routine and it took me another week or so to get back on track.
And I’m here to tell you, it’s okay.
It’s okay if you get off track. I did. But after I let myself have a few days off, I got back into it because I actually craved the activity. Not to mention that my butt literally hurt if I sat for too long.
I’m going to sign off here before this turns into a dissertation, but I felt the urge to share what I learned and experienced this past year. I definitely feel healthier, happier, and lighter. But most of all, I am in a better place mentally.
I look forward to what a second year of breaking a sweat will bring me.