“It’s a lifestyle change!”

I cannot tell you how many times I have rolled my eye at that phrase. That and “weight loss journey.” Barf.

I don’t even know why these phrases make me wanna barf. It is probably their over-use. Something about them just seems performative. You know, insta-ready. Look at my adaptogenic rainbow smoothie bowl! I had it for breakfast after my sunrise meditation. Here’s a photo of me meditating with my toes touching my head! Hashtag wellness hashtag fitfam.

Or maybe you’re more the type to be like check out this keto fatbomb hashtag no days off. Just pulled a new PR at the box in my new Nike Metcons.

Look, if one of these are lifestyles you truly aspire to, then great! Go get ’em! Really! But there are a lot of people out there who want to just be better versions of themselves and start to think they have to completely overhaul their entire lives on a “fitness journey” or “change their lifestyle” in order to lose weight to improve their health. In reality, that’s not completely necessary.

If you would like to lose weight or improve your fitness, the number one question you need to ask yourself is “What do I want my life to look like when I reach my goal?”

So many people will begin a “weight loss journey” thinking they need to lose X number of pounds, so they have to give up all soda and alcohol and pizza and ice cream and go to the gym as often as possible. Not only does this set people up for burnout or increase their chances of binging on all those foods they’re avoiding, it’s also probably unrealistic.

We’ve all seen the studies that show people regain the weight they lose, right? They are rampant. It can certainly be argued that it’s because we fall into old habits because we don’t create a lasting “lifestyle change,” but I think it’s because we don’t make our initial adjustments with our end goal or maintenance in mind.

When you are preparing your weight loss plan or lifestyle change, you need to think about the things in your life that you will want to keep and how you will want your life to look. Consider that you might learn new things you like to do or eat, so the idea of how you want your life to be might change! And that’s great! Or it might not, and that’s great, too!

Think about yourself once you’re at your goal, envision the way your body looks and feels, the habits and hobbies you will have, the foods you will eat.

  1. What role will exercise have in your life when you are at your goal? Some folks believe an exercise regimen is a means to an end, just a way to lose body fat or gain muscle. Truly, regular exercise is an important part of maintaining one’s weight and health, but everyone has a different level of interest in exercise. Some folks wish to exercise regularly while trying to lose weight and then decrease frequency during maintenance. There are many types of exercise–from walking around your neighborhood in the evening to HIIT to yoga to powerlifting. Decide what sort of exercise you will be doing when you are already at your goal and start incorporating that now. You may want to experiment with different types and intensities of exercise as you go to learn what you like, but start to consider this now so you can envision the role fitness will play in your life moving forward.
  2. What will your diet look like when you’re at your goal? Do you think you’ll go back to eating takeout or putting back a couple six packs every night? Chances are that won’t end well. But then again, if you don’t want to be drinking kale smoothies and snacking on celery sticks dipped in fat-free ranch for the rest of forever, creating a diet plan that focuses solely on these won’t be sustainable. The same goes for trying any number of fad diets, like keto or paleo or juicing. If you don’t want to do it forever and can’t see yourself doing it when you reach your goal, it won’t be worth trying to maintain it in the short-term. You are better off trying to make smaller changes, such as incorporating more lower-calorie and nutritious options and indulging less.
  3. What will your body look like at your goal? This is important, because even though you might have decided that you don’t really feel like lifting weights and you want your diet to be mostly pizza and beer just less of it, but also you want to get jacked like Arnold Schwarzenegger… well, I hate to break it to you but you’re going to have to check some of these goals. Do you want a body like a ballerina and a sub-3 hour marathon time while eating nothing but ice cream? At some point you will have to determine what is realistic between what you want your lifestyle to be and what you want your body to look like or the fitness level you want to achieve. Consider where sacrifices can be made. Are you willing to give up some of that pizza in order to achieve the physique you want? Are you so averse to intense exercise that you’re OK with never having Michelle Obama arms? Do you actually love kale smoothies and gleefully anticipate enjoying them for breakfast every morning forever?

Deciding to lose weight or improve your fitness is an important decision–and it’s a great, exciting thing! Just remember to be realistic when considering your lifestyle chances in relation to your ultimate goals.

I’m currently writing this after having absolutely sucked up a run.

I set out with a goal in mind. I was going to get one last 5k in before a scheduled race, aiming for a time under 32 minutes (ideally around 31:30, if I’m being completely honest). It was one of my Hogwarts Running Club races, and I wanted to complete it on the suggested day even though there was no hard and fast rule about that. It was Wednesday, and I had two pretty tough Orangetheory classes on Monday and Tuesday. My legs were like lead. I stretched after my warm-up walk to the park, but it was clearly insufficient.

 

20180502_175112I ran down the first hill and I knew pretty quickly that I was going to be slow. At the first mile, my Nike Running Club app told me that my first mile was at a 10:12 pace. My first mile of this course is always my fastest because of this huge downhill that I always catch a ton of speed on.

If I was at 10:12 and struggling as much as I was, I was in trouble.

Over the next half mile, I felt my body slow. It was hot. I had a side stitch that kept coming and going. There was wind that felt like it was sucking the air from my lungs. When I hit 1.55 miles and was turning around to head back for my loop, I decided I had to stop to walk. My pace was inching closer to 12 minutes and I just didn’t have it in me.

As I was walking, I let myself feel angry for a bit. I was expecting to go out and crush this, like I had my most recent runs on this path. I spent half a mile trying to determine all of the reasons why I performed so poorly.

Here are some of the reasons I performed poorly:

  1. I consumed less water than usual by this point in the day. I normally drink upwards of a gallon or more per day. I will routinely have consumed around 80 ounces by the time I leave work–but I was about 20 ounces behind that on this day. Even though I drank 27 ounces before I went out for my run, bringing my total to 87 by around 5 pm… this is still 20 ounces behind my usual hydration level.
  2. I was on my second day of a reduced calorie intake. I spent most of the month of April eating at maintenance after cutting January through March. I took a maintenance break while I was going through some medical things, but at this point I had about 10 pounds of body fat I still wanted to cut. Being only 2 days into a cut, even when eating appropriate macros and good, healthy foods, can sap your energy.
  3. The weather. It was hot. It was humid. The wind was rough.
  4. My body was fatigued from two super tough Orangetheory workouts. There were an absurd number of lunges in those workouts. My hamstrings were tight. I struggled during them, as well! I remember having to cut my treadmill paces and pause during the ridiculous amount of lunges. I even bailed during some shoulder presses because my body just felt so fatigued.
  5. I’m a human being, and I’m imperfect, and some days are just going to be “off days.”

Let’s be honest, it was probably some combination of all of those factors, with a huge, whopping emphasis on number 5. Probably even some other factors I hadn’t considered thrown in the mix.

I spent a good chunk of time walking and ruminating over all of these things, and basically talking very poorly to myself in my head. Then I remembered some advice I had recently given a friend who had told me she was bumming about her own poor performance:

It is perfectly valid to be disappointed when you perform poorly. You should absolutely allow yourself to feel that way. But as soon as you no longer wish to be upset–stop. Don’t dwell. Dwelling on negative feelings does nothing but break your spirit. However, it is important to take the time to acknowledge negative emotions. If anything, remember how it felt to want to do better and use that as motivation during a tough outing in the future. You know you can do better, and being upset at you performance is proof to yourself that you care and are motivated to improve.

 

I told several people an iteration of this same thing multiple times over the day or two leading up to this run, but for some reason I was having trouble remembering it as I walked my way through the park, dejected over my inability to run 3 miles in this moment. I don’t know why I’m so bad at taking my own advice, but thankfully I was able to remember it and remind myself that one bad run does not reflect upon my level of fitness–or, moreso, who I am as a person. Okay, so I had to stop to walk. I still ran a mile and a half, and I was walking at that moment. Walking is not inferior to running. Running slowly is not inferior to running faster. This workout was not “bad” because it did not live up to the goal I set for it. I was still challenging my body, and by doing so I was making myself better.

How did I finish the workout? Well, a song I love came on (Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like”, don’t even judge me), and I decided to jog again. When the song ended, my legs still felt like lead and I walked again. After another song, I decided to try to jog for one more song, so I did. Then I was back at the bottom of the big hill and I knew my tired legs couldn’t run up it, so I told myself it was OK to walk up the hill. And I did. I was disappointed that I took about 7 and half minutes longer to complete my 5k than I had set out, but I completed it.

Final Time: 38:16.

 

Thanks to everyone for the crazy amount of kind words and support when I shared my weight loss story on Facebook!

I’ve gotten some questions, and I want to answer a few. I was going to just post them on Facebook again, and then I remembered that I had this old blog sitting around and I’ve been thinking about resurrecting it for a while. No time like the present, I suppose?
Anywho, I posted about my 40-pound weight loss and a lot of people had some questions for me–how did I do it, what was my secret, etc. I figured I should just answer them, because… well… why not?
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Here are some sorta before shots + an after shot of my 40-pound weight loss.

  1. What’s up with that tumor thing? I had a prolactinoma on my pituitary gland. It basically just secreted a hormone called prolactin, which can mess a bunch of stuff up since our hormones are in a delicate balance. As far as I know, it is gone! I do see my endocrinologist soon, and she’ll probably order blood work to make sure all is well, but we have no reason to believe it has returned. Hooray!
  2. How quickly did you lose the weight? It took me 15 months, or about 60 weeks. That means I lost at a rate of less than one pound per week. I lost the last bit pretty quickly while participating in a challenge at my gym (about 15 pounds since January, which has been 12 weeks), but otherwise it’s been slow and steady.
  3. What foods did you give up? None, really. Well, I technically gave up carbonated drinks, but that’s just because my migraine medicine makes them anything carbonated taste flat and nasty. That’s a side effect I was told would go away, but it hasn’t yet. If it does go away, I will definitely enjoy an occasional beer/soda/whatever again. I don’t ban any food item or group.
  4. What foods do you eat? I basically pack a turkey sandwich and carrots and overnight oats for lunch every day, because I’m a creature of habit. Other than that, it’s kind of just whatever. I made chicken parmesan the other night, and covered that in cheese, just drowned that sucker. It was glorious. I do eat a lot of Halo Top, because what’s not to like about protein+fiber in your ice cream? But yeah, I still eat carbs and bread and go out to eat and whatever. I drink like 100+ ounces of water a day. That’s pretty important.
  5. What supplements or other trickery do you use/have you tried? I drink BCAAs during my workout (I like Scivation Blue Raspberry), which was recommended to me specifically because I have the potential for muscle wasting due to the long-term steroid use during my treatment. I drink enough coffee and tea during the day that I really don’t need any more caffeine (and if you know me, I LOVE coffee), so I don’t really use pre-workouts particularly often (though I do currently have a tub of C4 in my possession).  I have dabbled with Intermittent Fasting, which really just amounts to me skipping breakfast. I often wouldn’t be hungry for breakfast, so I started experimenting with intentionally skipping it and eating it with my lunch. I would feel really full and not hungry at all until dinner, which was nice. So I do that as a way to just feel full, but I don’t do it all the time (if I get hungry in the morning, I eat). I like to eat lots of food, so I’m not really into meal replacements. I don’t do wraps or pills. I haven’t even been very good about taking a daily multivitamin. I just eat food in the appropriate amounts and exercise 3-5 times per week.
  6. Where do you get your willpower? I don’t really believe I have this crazy amazing willpower everyone seems to suggest that I have. I’m not perfectly on track every day. I am a creature of habit, so once it became habit to schedule my gym sessions and prepare certain foods, it was natural for me to just keep doing it. If my habits were to not exercise and sit around ordering Chinese Food every day… I would keep doing that. It just required a few months of making a point to create new habits and stick to them, even if I didn’t feel like it at the time. Meanwhile, a nutritionist told me that 17/20 of your meals should be right on, and the other 3 can be “whatever” and you’ll still be on track. (Granted, “whatever” doesn’t mean eat all the food in your fridge 3 times a week…. moderation is always key) It’s easy to go off when, say, your coworkers order pizza at work. You feel like “oh well, I lost the day, might as well eat whatever I want for dinner and start over tomorrow!” Many people don’t start over tomorrow, or we let those off-track moments derail us for a lot longer. I just tell myself that one meal like that isn’t going to be a problem, that I can’t live my life always saying no to things, and I will just be back at it again soon. There are no “bad” foods or “bad” meals. I didn’t “fail” my diet by eating pizza for lunch. Eat the pizza, enjoy it, make it a special occasion thing vs an everyday thing, and tomorrow I’ll eat the lunch I packed.
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