|Despite my face, I actually had a great workout.|
Look, I'm not a scientist. I'm not a trainer, or a coach, or an elite athlete, or a doctor or anyone whose opinion is really worth anything, so you can feel free to take it with a grain of salt. BUT... I've been on this road a fairly long time. I was forced onto this "BE LESS FAT" road as a little girl, I've been conditioned by society that this is a goal that I should have, and I've tried almost everything possible that isn't life-threatening or requires surgery. (Which is not to say that everything I've tried has been healthy or safe.) And I've learned a few things about this process.
- Eat clean. If you think of your body as a complex machine with many functioning parts (which it basically is, right?) then you need to make sure you're giving it the best possible fuel. Good, clean fuel. Now, there are lots (LOTS!) of opinions about what the best fuel is, but my own opinion is that everyone's body is different and only you can truly determine what's best for you. I myself discovered that Paleo is what my body likes best, but maybe other people are perfectly happy eating the Standard American Diet. Their diet is awesome for them, and my diet is awesome for me; I do not judge. But no matter what your best way of eating is, that's what you've got to do consistently. Treats are lovely, and they are happiness-inducing, but they have got to stay treats and not become regular meals. I have discovered that, for me, it's not enough just to eat less and work out more - it's about eating the right things for my body.
- Lift heavy. As a woman, my whole life, I've read tons of articles about how get stronger without getting bulky. GOD FORBID I look like man. Nevermind that it's impossible for me to achieve bodybuilder physique. So all these articles recommend light weights and high reps. You know what ended up happening? NOTHING. Because either it wasn't challenging my muscles enough or I got SUPER bored and decided I'd call it quits. (Or both.) I only started doing heavy lifting when I took up CrossFit, but it has worked wonders - I felt the difference IMMEDIATELY. (And when I say "heavy lifting," I don't mean that I picked out bigger dumbbells for bicep curls - I'm talking about the old school squats, presses, cleans, etc, using barbells. Not isolated muscle movements.) And yes, I'm a bit huge. I'm a big girl to begin with, and I also put on muscle really easily - even when I took up swimming in college, my shoulders were suddenly bulldog-like. But you know what? I don't mind. It's not something I can control, and therefore, it's not something I'm willing to waste time worrying about.Which brings me to my next point...
- Have fun. I enjoy CrossFit and running, and I don't care if I DO get bulky. And I don't care if running isn't effective weight loss - I do both these things because I LOVE them. I have fun. I feel good physically and emotionally. I don't understand people who put in hours doing exercises that they HATE just because they want to lose weight.
- There is more to life than just "being less fat." These are my lessons for losing weight, but my one BIG takeaway is that, actually, losing weight is not the most important thing for my body to do. It is a difficult goal, to lose weight and "be pretty"; it requires a lot of hard work and is nothing to scoff at. But let's be honest - losing weight is not necessarily the same as getting healthier. There are ANY NUMBER of ways that I could lose weight, if that is purely my one goal. One weekend, not too long ago, I had the stomach flu or something and lost eight pounds IN A DAY. But that was just about one of the most unpleasant weekends I've ever had. What I have realized is that my body is capable of MORE than losing weight. It is capable of some amazing things, like completing a marathon and front squatting 160 pounds (hey, that's a big number for me) and, I don't know, having a baby, and those are all things that would be drastically impaired if I were to aggressively try to be skinny. (This is not a judgment on people who are already naturally skinny - people who are naturally skinny are that way because that's where their bodies want to be. I am not a naturally skinny person, so the only way for ME to be skinny is to do it unnaturally, and you know that won't go well.) In my lifelong quest to BE LESS FAT, I've discovered that all of a sudden, being less fat is no longer the most important thing*. Purely being less fat isn't going to make me love myself - accomplishing goals and having fun are what make me love myself, because with those two things come confidence and peace of mind.
I know - some people will be like, "But I like sitting on my couch all day, eating cupcakes and drinking beer! It's what I love to do!" And you know what? If you are happy doing that, then DO IT. I will not judge you. In fact, I will envy you. I am extremely prone to bouts of depression if I don't busy myself with some training goal or hobby, not to mention that I also have a low-level gluten intolerance, so I am happy to give up certain foods and to go out for a run if it means that I will come back feeling cheery and that I won't be dealing with constant stomach discomfort and itchy red eyes.
So, I don't judge anyone's life style choices, but for those of you who want to lose weight, get stronger, be happier with yourselves, those are my takeaways so far. Do with them what you will.
*This doesn't mean that I don't care about my weight - I still weigh myself and track my gains and losses. It's just that it's no longer my reason for existing. I am more than a number.