I have always struggled with my weight. Now I have never been fat, but I have never been able to love my body the way I wanted too. And after bouts of depression where I could not seem to eat anything at all and anxiety ridden bingeing sessions, college seemed like a fresh start. I would never gain that freshman fifteen! Well, joke was on me, I totally did. Upon coming home from school in April, I had gained exactly 15 lbs. And I honestly felt terrible about myself; not because I looked fat, in fact I looked fairly healthy. But because I felt sluggish. I noticed myself being negative and not wanting to get out of bed. I lacked motivation yet had too much anxiety to even sit still. I had nothing to do; I was nannying, but that only kept me busy for a few hours 4 days a week. In the time surrounding, I noticed an overwhelming urge to stuff my face with garbage: candy, potato chips, bowl after bowl of sugary cereal. Then came the guilt. It was a vicious cycle that had nothing to do with me being hungry.
So I returned to therapy. But this time I began sessions with a new psychologist. Boy, did she make a difference. I told her exactly how I was feeling and she asked if I liked to exercise. I have always enjoyed running but I was so sluggish I could not even get to a half mile without having to stop; this tended to drag me into giving up and walking home. To this my therapist said, ‘a bad run is better than no run at all. Just when you want to give up is the moment you need to decide to keep going. You must do it for you.’
I have never identified with words so deeply. I realized the only way I could help my brain and my body was to keep going, to nourish and strengthen it, no matter the frustration.
I began my research on Instagram. I know, I know, probably not the best idea for someone with body image issues, but what I found was inspirational. Women of all shapes and sizes lifting weights, eating hearty, nutritious meals. Not depriving themselves, but flourishing in their bodies and minds. And it was truly the motivation I needed. I went to my dad who, with a lifetime of athletics under his belt, knew about the importance of physical fitness and nutrition. His number one piece of advice was weight lifting. For women especially, lifting weights will strengthen bone, with the help of calcium and vitamin D; this prevents the all-too-common osteoporosis. Weight and strength training also builds muscle which is the ultimate calorie burner. My favorite strength building exercises include:
- Jump squats
- Sumo Squats
- Squats with a medicine ball
- Push ups
- Mountain Climbers
- Straight leg lifts
- Scissor kicks
- Bicycle kicks
- Tricep dips
- Jumping jacks
Once you have all these moves in your arsenal, you can do them at any time! When I first started I did my best to do 2 exercises per part of the body (arms, legs, abs) and I would only do 10-15 of each. As I got stronger, I found it easier to do 20-30. I went at my own pace and took a break when I needed it, but I still pushed through.
Contrary to popular belief, cardio will not burn nearly as much calories as weight lifting. BUT that does not mean cardio is not important, if you do it right.
The best way to categorize cardio is splitting it into two parts: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Low Intensity Steady Speed (LISS).
HIIT will burn sugars and carbohydrates like no other, and it can be done in fairly short spurts of time. If you have a busy day, all you need is 10-15 minutes of a HIIT workout. The interval part is the important part. This means you go all out for a set amount of time, then you go slow. And repeat. My favorite HIIT workout on a treadmill goes something like this:
- 5 minute warm up (light jog)
- 3x: 3 minutes fast/3minutes slow
- 1-2 m cool down (walk)
And you can do any variations you want! Depending on how you feel, you can take it slow or really push. *Never push yourself to a breaking point and if you feel tired STOP ‘A bad run is better than no run’*
LISS workouts are HIIT’s more mellow cousin. And these workouts burn lots of fat. These workouts are characterized by their 30 minute-1 hour time span, so I generally only do these on the weekend. I like to do a light jog for an hour or just peddling on a stationary bike on medium resistance while watching my favorite tv show.
Recovery. Recovery. Recovery. Perhaps the most important part of working out. Always stretch your large muscle groups, do yoga, use a foam roller, take a rest day. Just make sure you recover.
DON’T START A DIET. JUST DON’T. IT WILL NOT WORK. Depriving yourself of your favorite foods will only make you miserable and drive you to eat more. The key is self awareness. I noticed when I would eat the most and the worst were times when I was not even hungry. When I went to the fridge out of boredom or stress I would pay no mind to the shit (excuse my french) I was shoving in my body.
So I started to listen to my body.When I did feel hungry or needed something to munch on, I tried to figure out what exactly my body was asking for. If I am tired I eat a piece of fruit and a cheese stick. If I am feeling stressed, I crunch on some trail mix or granola. I became more aware of my portions because your body will tell you when its full. You don’t need to rely on sheer will power, we all know that’s too hard. You just have to pay attention to your body. I still eat bread, I still like to have gummy bears and crackers. I just pay attention to how full my body feels and I balance it with proteins and simple carbs. It is also important not to cut out any particular food group or count your calories. This could leave you feeling worse (unless it refined sugars, cut those out they are your worst enemy). Your body needs all the nutrients, all the fats, carbs, proteins, all of it. Eat cheese, the fats are good for you. Have some chicken its full of lean protein. Eat pasta, the whole grains and fiber will help your digestive system. You can still eat all your favorite foods and stay fit and feel great in body and mind.
The combination of balanced nutrition and healthy activity can get you to a state of contentment. You do not need a resolution, you just need to start somewhere. Anywhere. Even the smallest amount of growth is growth. Always remember, ‘a bad run is better than no run at all.’
I hope you all enjoy your New Years. Make 2017 the best one yet. I hope this post will motivate you to live a healthier, happier life. I know it has helped me do just that!