Have I ever told you about the time when I decided I was done with lifting weights, doing cardio and counting calories? I don’t think I have. Believe it or not, my quest hasn’t been a straight-line, map-following adventure. Quite far from it actually.
Cliff notes on the beginning: When I first started lifting, I fell in love with it. The way it made me feel, the things it did for my body, the self-confidence it built in me for the first time. I tracked calories, and weighed and measured my food. I wore a heart rate monitor to track what I burned in each workout. I lifted weights with the intent to burn off the fat.
I did cardio with the same purpose, and I had a daily calorie goal that I met daily to keep progressing. I even competed on stage, had a great time, and continued on with the goal of doing another at some point. I wanted a better me, and I aimed higher. I kept on doing my cardio, tracking my food, lifting 6 days a week.
Then I noticed that things weren’t changing with my body. I ramped it up to see if that made a difference. I starting googling for ideas. I lifted faster, took shorter breaks, changed up cardio, tried HIIT, removed foods, added foods. If there was something out there that may work, I was more than willing to do it.
I was dedicated and I never missed a single workout. If you hit the wayback button on this site, you’ll actually see posts during that time. It was exhausting but that’s what you need to do to stay in shape and you definitely have to do it if you want to fix things with your body. Or so I thought.
It didn’t matter that my workouts were no longer fun. I did them and put effort in, but my heart wasn’t there. I didn’t workout because it made me feel good, but because I had to and that’s what you did to stay in shape. I choked down my meals and sat out events and things because that was needed too.
One day around February of 2013, it all hit me. I hated what I was doing. Every last bit of it. I was done. No more lifting, no more cardio, no more weighing, counting. Nada! Eff this, I’m outta here. I wallowed and chowed down for about a week. Man, I hit the self pity buffet hard and it temporarily felt good. The aches stopped, the dread stopped, and I found a happier place.
Here’s the interesting part. I realized that something was seriously wrong with my approach if the very thing I loved was no longer fun. For the first time, I didn’t blame myself for failing, not being good enough, or not trying hard enough. Maybe it was the free time and extra calories after giving up. LOL, who knows why. It was a light bulb moment to realize that it was the approach that didn’t fit me anymore, not me.
So I changed my approach. Instead of trying harder or going longer, I began asking myself questions. What do I feel like doing today that sounds like fun? What am I in the mood to eat? If I was eating and I didn’t like it, I stopped or I asked what can I do to make it taste better?
I tried different classes just to see what they were all about. I lifted without purpose other than to move and feel good again. I added flavors and sauces to my meals. I savored bites of dessert and ate at parties without thinking about what was in things. It felt awesome! I started to look forward to workouts, but not the same way. I got excited to see how much I could lift, how many reps I could do.
I no longer had food swings from one extreme to the other. And you know what? I didn’t gain weight out of control or turn into a jiggly mound of fat. Quite the opposite. I began to be happy with a few bites of a treat and not the entire thing. I saw muscle definition coming in, the scale going down, and I started to believe that I could actually compete again. The second time was a completely different mindset and experience.
It was fun and I felt great! I played in the gym with weights and focused on how I felt and performance. I ate out and had fun foods along the way. Like anything, I still had moments where I wasn’t in the mood but I went back to the basics and asked “How can I make this fun right now?” Sometimes it was doing a different workout instead of the planned one. Sometimes I shaved off a set or moved the order so my hated exercise was out of the way.
I didn’t do one second of traditional cardio, but I danced, played in the park. I went on to compete again and had one of the best times ever. I also came in 10 lbs lighter and in much better condition the second time around. The picture on the left was taken about 2 months before that fateful day, and the one on the right was taken about 9 months later.
I follow this mindset to this day in my eating and workouts. During the summer instead of juggling schedules and forcing myself into the gym 4 days a week, I change over to either shorter workouts or 3 days a week. I play with my food like a crazy person. See the recipes on this site as examples. If it doesn’t make me happy to eat it, I don’t eat it.
I don’t look forward to birthdays and vacations as a time to have a food blow out because I can eat whatever I feel like anytime. On vacations, I make it special by picking one thing a day that’s something I really want. Usually I find a local restaurant or donut shop and fully enjoy a dish or donut that I can’t just get every day back home.
There are some weeks that I have ice cream daily, but then I realize after a while I don’t feel as great so I cut back again. It’s not because of guilt or that I’m not supposed to eat it, but because I choose to cut down to feel differently. I’ve even taken a week off from the gym to rest, and look forward to getting back with a renewed mentality afterwards and end up coming back stronger as well. Seriously. Asking yourself how things makes you feel works!
It’s a totally different mindset when you eat and move for the fun and feel of it. In fact, the change in mindset that fateful day in 2013 was VERY life changing. It led me down the path to where I am today and to my dream job. Imagine if I’d really never picked up a weight again. I wouldn’t be doing what I do today.
Have you ever said “I don’t want to workout but if I don’t get my minutes in, I won’t lose weight this week?” Or “I’ve just gotta get this weight off!” What about “Oh, I can’t have that since I’m on a diet.” Give this some serious thought. You cannot make long lasting changes when you approach it from hating your body, desperation, or feeling like you have to make a change. You can absolutely start with the mindset of wanting to be a better you and there’s nothing wrong with that.
It’s what gets most of us going on our journey, so definitely use it to get your foot in the door. If you keep it with this approach however, at some point it will end. For some of us, the end takes longer than others. You have those that start for New Years and are done by February, or done in a week. The obsessive perfectionist in me refused to give up and took a couple years before crashing and burning.
I see it in clients and potential clients from competitors trying to make a show date to those with a lot of weight they want to get off and everywhere in between. If you make changes with a negative approach, you will end up disappointed. The scale, measurements, or body fat won’t move in the time frame you want or your body won’t end looking as you imagined, and you’ll get upset.
You’ll force yourself to workout when you don’t necessarily want to. You’ll pound out cardio and add more. You’ll diet harder or cleaner. Along with this typically comes periods of diet vs blow outs, frenzied workouts vs weeks of sitting, and other extremes. A really cool thing happens when you keep the fun in it. The highs and lows even out and the consistency starts to fall into place.
Sometimes we get into the mindset that following rules and dedication are what is needed for results. The more rules and the closer we follow them the better. Often it just complicates things and sucks the joy out of the process. When you remove the restrictions, it can be freeing as you realize you can be trusted to act rationally most times and to look forward to not going crazy with rebellion.
If you’re struggling with trying to fix your body and dieting or working out harder in the process, I’d love to chat. It may be the approach that needs an overhaul to get you where you want to be. Drop me an email and let me know or come on over to Facebook and ask a question. I’m happy to tell you more about my story and answer questions.
We can lay out a plan to make this time more of a fun adventure that fits into your life and doesn’t just add stress to it.