This is a reallly long post and I feel slightly narcissistic writing it, but I know what a struggle this is with my clients and a lot of women that I know. So, here it goes!
I grew up on a steady diet of sugar. Literally. My mom managed a gas station with a large convenience store filled with frozen hamburgers, candy, frozen yogurt, Slurpees…you name it, it was in there and I was allowed to have anything I wanted. At home, I ate Pop Tarts with butter, sugar in my sugary cereals, five packets of instant oatmeal, two cans of Hormel chili and Kraft Mac N Cheese with butter and extra shredded cheddar cheese.
I would stash candy in my bedroom and hide Pop Tarts in my doll house. My parents would lecture me about how much sugar I put in my Cheerios and how I would regret not eating salad (which consisted of iceburg lettuce, ground beef and cheese).
I never played sports (except for cheerleading three years in high school, and let’s be honest, that’s not really a sport) or exercised on purpose. I did Rollerblade and ride my bike, but only until I hit my teen years. My favorite activities included watching tv, reading and eating.
By the time I was in a freshman in college, I was the biggest I had ever been! I weighed about 170 pounds and had almost 40% body fat! In 2005, I started working at Costco pushing those giant carts and lifting heavy boxes and cases of water. For the first time in my life, I was fit! I lost about 10 pounds and discovered that I had hip bones!
I got a membership at 24 Hour Fitness by my work and after 8 hours of work, I would go workout for another two hours. I would run when I wasn’t at the gym and would wake up at 4:30am to take a step class. I became obsessed with my ever shrinking body. I started writing down what I ate and banished all forms of sugar for a whole summer. I ate out of measuring cups and went to bed with my stomach growling.
But, every morning, I awoke just a little bit smaller. By the summer of 2007, I weighed 139 pounds and was in a size 4. I looked gaunt and struggled enormously with IBS type symptoms. I lived on diet Pepsi and reduced-fat popcorn while working out 7 days a week (sometimes two times a day!).
Finally, I realized that my eating and working out habits were killing me mentally and emotionally. I started focusing on being healthy. I subscribed to Clean Eating Magazine and made dozens of “healthy” cookies (I am a recovering Sugar Addict) and cooked with every whole grain I could find. By 2009, I was a mess! I was 145 pounds, running 25 miles a week and still having stomach issues (we had lots of candles in the bathroom).
After my first half-marathon, I decided I wanted to become a personal trainer and help people like myself. I wanted people to feel the rush from achieving things physically that they had never been able to do before. I got certified and started working in a gym pursuing my dream. I helped people cut out sugar and count calories, like I had done and was trained to do.
My clients had small term success because they were eventually tired of working out and couldn’t adhere to low-calorie diets. I wanted more for them and more for myself. In 2011, I was certified as a Fitness Nutrition Specialist. Around this time I also started CrossFit and the Paleo Diet. It changed the way I did training and nutrition for my clients and they started seeing better results.
I became obsessed with CrossFit, going four or five times a week. I became the strongest and leanest I had ever been. I was a size 6 and incredibly unhappy.
Yes, unhappy. My stomach issues were all but gone and I was doing strict pull ups and deadlifting three times my body weight. I was wearing small clothes and had a toned body people would kill for. Why was I unhappy?
I was unhappy because I still struggled with food. I struggled with the “can’t haves”, the “shouldn’ts” and the “have to’s.” I was obsessed with making sure my hip bones and collar bones were poking out and that my biceps were defined, not saggy.I worked out incessantly even my hands were calloused and would rip open and I was sore every day. I had to avoid foods I loved in order to keep my tummy happy and fat off my hips. It.Was.Exhausting!
Finally, in 2013, after working with a therapist for a couple of years, I realized that I was being held hostage by my beliefs about being skinny, fit and healthy. I was obsessed with my body, food and workouts. I truly lived by statements that involved “have to”, “can’t” and “should”. These powerful lies had become my reality and I worked really hard to break them down and find freedom in figuring out what my trigger foods and behaviors were. Once I knew those, I chose to avoid or limit them in order to maintain my new way of thinking and living.
I quit CrossFit because it triggered the competitive and over-doing side of me. I stopped calling myself Paleo because the label enforced restriction and the “can’t have” mentality. I started doing yoga to quiet my soul and reduce anxiety about making good choices. I found acceptance of my body and was proud of all that it had accomplished.
Since that revelatory time in 2013, I have had a baby, which has ushered in a lot of the “have to’s” and “can’ts” and obsessions with body size. I wrestled again with counting calories and watching the scale. I was triggered and obsessed about losing the baby weight. The difference is that I was able to recognize triggering behavior and stop it in it’s tracks. I remembered that my goal for my life was not to be the thinnest or the strongest, because that does not make me happy.
I want to pursue health and be the best woman, wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend and employee that I can be. I want to call a truce and be friends with my body, not at war with it or working against it. I want to have a healthy, balanced mind that seeks nourishment and choices. I don’t want to be a gym rat or sore every day- and I don’t have to! I don’t have to be on a fat loss diet or do fat burning exercises! I can if I want to, but I no longer “have to”.
Society says that I should be skinny or strong and that is what makes me beautiful or sexy. That I should have perfect skin, makeup, teeth, hair and make that my priority. That I should fit into cute cutoff shorts or skinny jeans. That I should have no bulges, bumps or lines. That I should workout every day and eat like a bird. That I should strive to look like all the airbrushed models on TV and magazines and that my competition for my husbands attention is all the models on the internet. Do you know what I have learned about all that? It is complete bull shit
All of this to say, dear friends, is that if you are looking to lose a lot of weight, I can tell you, it will not make you happy. It is incredibly hard to do (especially for women over 40) and takes a lot of work to maintain. Instead, focus on being the healthiest you you can be.
Make choices that make you a more balanced person and create margin in your life. It is in this sacred trust of your body and balance in your mind that you will find peace and contentment with your body. Find happiness in God, your family and friends, your body’s ability to do incredible things, nature– it’s all there for the taking!!!
If you don’t know how to trust your body or identify trigger foods and behaviors, I welcome you to Total Body Reboot. Here, we will teach you how to achieve the body and life you love and cherish without feelings of guilt, shame, frustration or sadness. Don’t hesitate to email or call us with questions about how you too can Reboot your body, mind and life!