When Eating Becomes Normal

“Normal” eating really is a challenging issue for most. First of all, I do not like the term “normal” because everyone is so different. With so much variety there is no normal. Being unique and individual opposes the term “normal”.  Yet most want a way to eat. Most are looking for a plan, a way, or a method and often fail to consider their individual needs, desires, and goals. Sticking to a diet denies us from being individual, unique, and special. Eating a meal plan based on what another says or does makes us more like that person, and less like ourselves.

“Normal” earing is a challenge secondly because there is a barrage of healthy eating theories, philosophies,  and practices. For the average person how to eat “healthy” or “normal” is confusing. We wonder if we should eat “clean”, “paleo”, “Atkins”, “weight watchers”, etc.  It is hard to decide which “diet” is best. Each boasts impressive weight loss stories and claims it is evidence based to give the best results. And we all probably know someone telling us to eat a certain way because that is worked best for that person. And everytime we try the “diet” we are left unsatisfied, hungry, and confused.

For most the issue is emotional eating. Anyone can follow a meal plan or a diet, for the most part. These plans become a problem when we feel sad, bored, stresed, overwhelmed,  excited, lonely, angry, or tired. Scientifically we eat to fill psychological needs and no diet can help us plan or manage that. We need to eat according to our individual needs, desires, and wants.

Know it is OK to eat. Eat fun food. Eat healthy food. Eat food with carbs and fat. Eat something that makes you feel good. Eat to feel full. It is important to eat healthy fruits, vegetables, and proteins, but it is also important to eat a treat. Identify how you feel before, during, and after eating certain foods by writing it down, if necessary. This can help you learn which foods satisify, avoid, reward, or derail you. It is normal to eat. If you are curious on what to eat for your body to achieve certain goals, or if you need guidance on how much to eat, consult a professional. Be sure to find someone that is qualified, just because someone is fit or appears healthy does not mean they are qualified to tell you how to eat. Every one is different just like every body is different. Therefore we will all have different nutritional needs. Consult your physician, dietician, and your body to discover what is best for you.

The morale of this story is, eat. Eat well, enjoy food, and fuel your body.

Advertisements

Which “Diet” Is Right For You

There are various types of diets individuals swear by in the health and fitness industry. Each one claims to help people lose weight, maintain weight, experience satisfaction, and promote health. With all the diets out there it can become overwhelming and confusing to decide which is best to live by.

I want to be clear about something here. I am not a nutrionist, nor am I a dietician. I am an expert in behavior and health, however. This post is not to claim that one diet is better than the other or to report an opinion about each diet. The purpose of this post is to identify a few types of popular diets today and explore the eating behavior associated with each. This post is to help you decide which diet supports how you want to live your life.

Why is eating behavior important to explore?

What you eat will impact your entire being. Eating, it goes without saying, will influence your body composition. What you eat will impact your waist line, your weight, and how your clothes feel. Thats why those in the fitness world often exclaim, “You cannot out train a bad diet”. Food not only impacts your physical body but food also will impact how you behave and interact with others.

Clearly research indicates food can impact mood. Researchers have found the stomach contains a hormone called ghrelin, and ghrelin travels directly to the brain and triggers the feeling of hunger. Researchers at University of Texas found ghrelin was associated with decreased stress and anxiety. THIS hormone reacts in the brain similarly to an antidepressant. What this research suggests is that eating can cure depression.

Think about how you feel after eating a nice healthy salad. The answer to this question could vary. On one hand eating a healthy salad can make someone feel satisfied and healthy. On the the other hand a person may feel bored and neglected after eating a salad. Now think about how you feel after eating a piece of chocolate cake. Again the answer could vary. A person may feel satisfied and relieved to have a craving satisfied, or a person may feel guilty and shame. The feelings associated with eating are related to eating behaviors. People that restrict may feel bored with eating foods, and people that binge may feel guilty for enjoying foods. In this regard diets that require restriction and eliminating foods could be difficult for some people. Not only is restriction difficult for emotional health but food restriction can harm your relational health.

Consider how many events, gatherings, and meetings involve food. Culturally we relate with others, express love, build relationships, and discuss ideas with others over food. Food is comforting. Food is enjoyable. Food is relaxing; so it makes sense why so many social interactions involve eating. Your eating behavior can improve your relationships with others. Eating behavior can also harm relationships when a person feels their diet prevents them from attending social engagements. It is possible a diet can cause increased isolation and withdrawal.

I love eating out and trying different restaurants. It is one of my most favorite things. My husband and I re-connect each weekend over dinner at a restaurant and we fellowship with friends with dinner and drinks. While on prep for my last bikini fitness competition I was not able to eat out for part of my plan. This made meals out with friends and family awkward. Although I was OK with my decision others I joined at restaurants felt uncomfortable as I ate in tupperware. My dad said he felt guilty for eating a big meal in front of me while I ate out of my Tupperware. Our eating behavior is impacted by the eating behaviors of others! Ultimately I started to decline invitations to eat out and the invitations to eat and fellowship with others stopped. Because of my “diet” I missed time with friends and family.

Are you now convinced that food is more than just fuel for your body? Food and our behaviors associated with food influences how we function on a daily basis. It is easy to see why millions struggle with food, either eating too much, eating too little, or uncertainty about what to eat.

So with all the diets that claim to be effective how do you decide which is best for you and your lifestyle?

The Gluten-Free Diet may be necessary for people with specific diseases and food allergies, however many others report restricting gluten in the diet will help shed pounds. Gluten is found in foods with wheat, barley and rye (such as pasta and traditional baked goods). The key for gluten free diet is to eat foods marked as gluten free on the package and to eat whole foods like meat, fruits, and vegetables.
This diet is helpful to keep people from eating processed foods which can contain dangerous chemicals and contain increased amounts of sodium, sugar, and fats. In that regard a Gluten free diet is healthy.
The problem with Gluten free is that packages marked “Gluten free” are still processed and contain increased sugar and fat. These are needed to maintain flavor. Lastly refraining from eating certain foods that may contain gluten does not allow the body to receive necessary and vital nutrients.

A clean eating diet is similar to gluten free. However individuals that claim to eat clean do not eat ANY processed foods. Clean eating involves eating whole foods that have minimal ingredients added. The key with clean eating is to eat the food in the most natural state as possible.
Clearly eating involves eating whole foods like meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. These foods are beneficial for the body and for life. These foods will provide the body with the nutrients necessary to function well.
The problem with clean eating is that many treats, cheats, and indulgences are eliminated. Oreos are not consumed on a clean eating diet.

The Paleo diet is all the rage. Paleo is very similar to clean eating. People on a Paleo diet live like the cavemen do. In other words they eat foods that are either hunted or gathered. Cavemen did not eat processed foods or foods that were cooked. This diet is good for health and the physical body because individuals eat increased lean meat, fruits, and vegetables, and processed foods like sugar, sodium, dairy, and other chemicals are eliminated. Any diet high in lean meats, fruits, and vegetables will benefit health. However this diet can be restrictive as dairy (ice cream, milk, cheese, etc) are eliminated. There are some that say eating increased amount of some meat (red meat) can lead to increased health problems (heart disease, cancer). This diet does not allow people to enjoy some foods for fear of eating food that is “bad”.

Many claim the trick to eat for weight loss is to eat less calories. The idea is to create a calorie deficit by burning more calories a day than one will consume. Honestly this will work, however, it is not necessarily safe and it is not recommended to maintain on this diet. Eventually the body will stop burning fat as calories are restricted. Restricting calories will keep the body from receiving essential nutrients and vitamins and eventually this can cause increased hunger, irritability, agitation, tiredness, and headaches. This diet does encourage an active lifestyle, which is always a benefit. However this diet should not be maintained for long periods of time and it does not teach people how to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Juicing is new trendy diet that many use to shed pounds and detox. Clearly veggies and fruit are good for the body. The body needs the nutrients and minerals in fruits and vegetables. However the body also needs nutrients and minerals in meat, grain, and fats! These foods are not found in juice. Although juicing will promote increased consumption of fruits and vegetables it severely eliminates foods the body needs to function properly. A juicing diet should not be maintaned for any period of time for risk of develop nutritional deficiencies.

Ever heard some say, IIFYM? IIFYM stands for If it Fits Your Macros. You may be asking, “what the heck is a macro?” A macro is a nutrient in food. The three primary macros are protein, carbs, and fat. Food also contains sodium, fiber, sugar, cholesterol, potassium, Vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. This micronutrients are also an important component of nutrition and are needed for optimal health. IIFYM is often referred to as “flexible” dieting. This diet promotes eating any food you want. It teaches people to let go of the guilt of eating foods because “bad” foods and “good” foods do not exist with flexible dieting. In other words if you want to eat donuts for breakfast, it is OK as long as it fits your macros. Everyone has different macro demands based on body composition and goals. With IIFYM you eat what you want as long as you consume the right number of protein, carbs, and fat each day. This makes eating more fun and relaxed. However it is also obsessive. Flexible dieting requires daily tracking food. Every meal needs to be weighed to the gram or ounce, measured, and calculated. It is a great way to learn about foods and the different composition of food however IIFYM requires being attached and restricted to a food scale and a calculator. Your life can be consumed by numbers and a need to manipulate portions and foods to fit macros. Flexible dieting is not eating oreos, cake, and donuts all day every day. In order for IIFYM to work a person must eat clean, whole foods most of the day.

One of these diets or none of the diets may appeal to you. You may be currently living by one of the diets and can attest to the benefits and show off your progress. Here is the thing about diet. All diets are “bad”. I do not think we should live a life of “diets”. Rather we need to live a life! We need to live a life where we love, experience, enjoy, challenge, learn, and grow. Food should never consume our time, energy, feelings, thoughts, and emotions. The key is to find balance. You will be most benefitted if you eat mostly whole foods, not overindulge or binge, refrain from restricting, and be sure to eat protein, fruits, and vegetables throughout the day. Bottom line, what diet you choose should fit your lifestyle and your goals. It should be one that you can live by every single day for the rest of your life. Finding balance with eating means you eat for health most of the time but know that is OK, acceptable, and appropriate to enjoy foods occasionally. Eating is a behavior and your diet should support your behavior and your lifestyle, not your life and lifestyle support your diet.

Let It Go For Improved Mental and Emotional Health

I am aware that what I am about to talk about is a challenge for most people. However what I am about to say is possible for ALL people.

Feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, worry, fear, anger, and frustration are normal human emotions. These emotions were adaptively necessary to help our early ancestors survive dangerous situations and these emotions help us adapt to our situations. What you feel is 100% OK. Although these feelings are normal and necessary it is not normal and necessary to hold onto these feelings for an extended period of time.

Holding onto grief, sadness, anger, frustration, worry, and fear can harm all areas of your life.

  • Relationships with others can be negatively impacted by holding onto upset feelings.  These feelings can cause isolation and withdrawal, and rather than spending time with loved ones you start to spend time alone.  Feelings like anger and frustration can cause one to yell or lash out at loved ones.  Excessive worry, fear, and anxiety can make others in our lives feel powerless to help.  These issues will limit others desire to spend time with you.
  • Your health will decline if negative feelings control your life.  Feelings not only create an emotional reaction in the body, but a physical one as well.  Upset feelings cause increased muscle tension, increased heart rate, decreased sleep, fatigue, and decrease the bodies ability to fight illness, disease, and infection.
  • Holding on to upset feelings can impact your mental ability.  Prolonged emotional upset causes negative thinking.  It can be difficult to think positive thoughts and challenging to see the “silver lining”.  Emotional upset leads to thinking that becomes distracted, distorted, and unfocused.
  • Decreased mental and cognitive ability can make completing tasks at work or school challenging.  Rather than focusing on what needs to be done in the present moment, upset feelings keeps you thinking about the things that caused the upset.  This causes increased forgetfulness, distraction, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems.
  • Spirituality beliefs can be challenged when upset emotions take over. This becomes a problem because rather then turn to a higher power, moral beliefs, and prayer and meditation to cope one may shy away from these practices.  Upset feelings can cause use to abandon helpful, positive, and effective coping skills.

I think most would agree it is unhealthy to hold onto upset emotions, particularly when these emotions get in the way of enjoying life. However it is not easy to let go of emotional upset. There are numerous reasons why emotions are hard to let go of.

  • Loss of a dear loved one
  • Betrayal
  • Lost trust
  • Emotional hurt from another
  • Physical hurt from another
  • Repeated disappointments in others
  • Limited resources or options available
  • Limited support
  • Conflict with others

This list is not exhaustive. There are other, numerous situations and life events that cause feelings to linger. However in my practice and therapy with others I have found it is most difficult to let go of upset when we feel as though we have been hurt (emotionally), betrayed, and left vulnerable by others.

In those situations we want the wrong done to us to be made right. We want justice. We want karma. We want retribution.  It seems that holding onto the upset is a way of maintaining control over self, others, and the situation. At the end of day the only one being hurt by harboring upset is you!  The other person continues to live their life and go through their day unaware of the upset you have toward them. However when you lie in bed at night you suffer with the thoughts and the upset.

Letting go is for you!  Letting go benefits you!  Letting go does NOT excuse the wrong done to you, nor does it make it OK. You were hurt and wronged and that’s ok. But allowing yourself to let go of some emotional upset helps you live life on your terms. Here are my five suggestions for living life on your terms, letting go of upset, and finding the silver lining daily.

  1. Exercise – beyond the health benefits exercise helps increase happy feelings, lowers stress, and gives you some “you-time”.
  2. Forgive – forgiveness is not forgetting!  Forgiveness is releasing harboring upset so that you can make room to enjoy life.
  3. Spend time everyday doing something you enjoy. I call this vegging out. Find that activity (watching TV, cooking, reading, take a bath, etc) that causes your mind to shift focus and settle down.
  4. Acknowledge how you feel and know the upset emotions are OK!  You are justified for feeling that way. No one can tell you how to feel. You are in control and you can take active steps to change how you feel.
  5. Release those upset emotions. Cry!  Yell!  Whatever you need to do to express the feeling do it. The thing about expressing emotions is that it will eventually stop. You may feel like if you start crying you will cry forever but you won’t. The crying will stop. Expressing emotions is like a coke bottle that has been shaken and opened. Eventually the coke stops exploding from the bottle and it settles. Then you are left with a refreshing beverage. Express your emotions so that once they are released you can enjoy life a little better.

it is not realistic to be happy all the time, but allowing yourself to feel and then release the feeling will create room for more pleasure and enjoyment in your life. You have one life. You have one day, today!  Fill your day with whatever feeling you choose. The good news is, tomorrow you get another chance.

 

* If you are having trouble letting go, it is Ok. Many people struggle with this concept. It can be hard, but extremely beneficial to ask for help. Don’t think that asking for help makes you weak or disabled. Asking for help gives you more power to overcome. If you need help letting go I can help!

You Can Do All Things!

On my forearm I have some beautiful words tattooed – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.  This comforting statement has profound meaning. It means that because of my Higher Power I can do anything. I can set goals, I can dream, I can live a life of passion, and I can have hope. 

 

Lately this reminder has helped encourage me. As I prepare for my first competition in 3 weeks I am more tired and I am training more. I am sore all over. I am doing more cardio than I prefer and I am hungry. I want to cheat or take it easy. I walk into the gym each day and have difficulty getting motivated. However I get started. And each and every time I push through. I push harder.  I get stronger.  I run faster. I keep going when I want to stop. Not because of myself. But because I have a strength inside me that allows me to do all things. 

We forget our power. We forget the power we have through our Higher Power. We allow our own flawed thinking and skewed perceptions of ourselves to hold us back. A friend stopped me at the gym the other day to compliment me in my progress. I accepted graciously and then proceeded to tell her where I felt I was lacking and cast doubt and skeptism on my progress. She reminded me my perception was not accurate and that what I saw was not what others saw. She related and talked about her own skewed thinking regarding fitness.  For my friend she was feeling tired, overwhelmed, and exhausted. She had personal issues that were impacting her life and her family. This would cause anyone to be more tired, stressed, and vulnerable. Yet she continued to do!  She kept working out, she kept taking care of her family, and she kept doing well at her job. 

The ability to keep going despite adverse circumstances or a desire to dedicate your self to an activity requires strength. I am not an athlete because of genetic or situational factors. I am an athlete because I have a Higher Power that allows me to do all things. Alone I would not be competing, nor would I have the displine or commitment to keep training. But because I believe in a Mighty and stronger Higher Power I know I can compete and I know I can stay focused and consistent. When we become self involved our thinking becomes narrowed and too focused on self. We start to evaluate our weaknesses and remember our failures. We compare ourselves to others. I am not an athlete. I never compete in anything, nor did I want to. I always quit when things get hard. I do not want to be challenged. Honestly if my training were up to me alone, I would have quit. However my inner power keeps me focused and shows me every time I workout that I can. 

I can do all things. I can!  When I remember the Power I have I am stronger. I am braver. I am more confident. You are stronger than you think. You are braver than you think. You can run faster and longer than you think. You can have self-control around food. You can do one more push-up. You can lose weight, find health, and love your body. You can if you remember your Power!  Your Higher Power is with you all day, every day, and it will give you strength, courage, and passion to all things!

Be Content to be More Fit

Living a fit lifestyle has a way of changing your perspective of the world and living healthier will change the way you think about things. Living a life that promotes health, wellness, and freedom causes one to be more self-aware, alert, and thoughtful. Living a fit and healthy life causes one to have more hope for the future, set more goals, and seek improvement.

Goal-setting is necessary to establish and maintain healthy life choices. I have discussed the importance of goal setting for living a healthy and fit life in several posts. Scientist also understand the importance of goal setting and cite that a future goal will maintain focus and lead to greater future success. Specifically a study suggested that in order to maintain health a person must consistently and frequently set goals, evaluate these goals, think about the goals, and pay attention to goals (Mann, de Ridder, & Fujita, 2013). What this means is that when trying to maintain health one must often and frequently think about individual goals, evaluate progress toward those goals, and take any additional steps required to achieve the goal. As I aprepare for my competition I daily evaluate my goal to be ready and able to compete on show day. This helps me stay motivated to work hard and follow my plan. Goals give us reason to move forward.

Setting goals keeps one looking to the future.  Looking forward helps provide motivation to achieve goals. Studies indicate future orientation, looking to the future, can change behaviors in the present. For example one study found that individuas focused on the future were able to decrease aggression and anger (a goal of study participants) in the moment (Stoddard, Zimmerman, & Bauemeister, 2011). Clearly goal setting and having a direction pointed toward the future helps achieve success. As I am focused on my future competition and all the work that is necessary to achieve my desired physique I also wonder what I am missing in the current moment.

If you are like most people pursuing a goal, patience can be difficult.  The outcome becomes a longing and as we yearn for our success and achievement we grow impatient, weary, and perhaps a bit frustrated. I know I personally struggle with this. I want to achieve my desired outcome and constantly looking to the future makes my goal seem unattainable. I, then start to feel overwhelmed and frustrated and fight the urge to quit. I feel confident I am not the only one that feels this way. Perhaps setting goals and focusing on the future distracts us from the present moment. This notion is supported by research. A study found that individuals focused on diet and weight loss goals had increased distraction and experienced increased failure of tasks in the moment (Jones & Rogers, 2003).

What this means is that if I am thinking about my goal at my competition at a later date I may become too distracted while working out. This distraction will keep me from successfully completing reps, progressing in the exercise, or improving my performance. You do not need to be a body builder working toward a competition to experience decreased focus and lack of progress. If you are working to maintain a diet or lose a certain amount of pounds you may struggle  to feel satisfied when eating or working out. Future orientation and remaining focused on goals may be stealing your joy. Constantly thinking about the future keeps us preoccupied, lacking, and feeling unsatisfied. I understand how all this information can be conflicting. On one hand it is apparent remaining fit requires goal setting and thinking about the future, while on the other thinking about the future can limit progress in the current moment.

During my quiet time the other morning it occurred to me the problem was that I failed to feel contentment. The following statement cued me to my problem: ”

“Contentment isn’t a matter with being content with your situation in life and never trying to improve it. It’s a matter of being content with what you have — but realizing that as humans, we will always try to improve, no matter how happy we are. If we don’t, we have given up on life”. Leo Babauta

I always want to improve, grow, and live my passions and goals in the future. Although hope for the future is great and necessary to become a better person, it keeps me from realizing all the blessings and positives I have in the moment. Becoming content is a key component to maintain balance and overall health and wellness.

Finding contentment is needed to enjoy the work, the progress, and the journey. Contentment brings pleasure to the current moment and brings joy in life. Rather than focusing on what is to come it is important to evaluate and appreciate what is now. The current moment is all that is guaranteed and, although we can hope for the future, the future is not guaranteed. Contentment is easy to achieve.

  • Count your blessings. Recalling what you have, the people in your life, and what you have accomplished thus far brings to perspective the realization that we have much and have achieved much.
  • Look at where you have been compared to where you are now. You are not the same person. You have grown. You have changed. You have experienced success and have achieved goals.
  • Appreciate the people in your life that support and encourage you. Feeling loved and supported brings peace of mind and a sense of relaxation and joy. Knowing we are loved helps us settle into the moment and focus on the task at hand.
  • Recall future goals but do not remain focused on them. Remember the reason for the hard work and recognize the overall goal and then move on. Think about what you are doing in the present. Think about what can be done right now to bring you happiness.
  • Focus on the task at hand and the current moment. This moment in time will influence your future so use this time now to be present, aware, and engaged.
We find peace and contentment only by focusing on the present. You can choose a behavior and an action that is beneficial to the future or will stall future goals. We are better equipped to make positive and helpful choices when we choose to be happy with what we have, where we are, and who we are with in the current moment. I can choose to change the outcome in the future by making a choice to benefit me right now. Choose happiness, choose acceptance, and choose confidence that you are capable of improving your future right now!

References:

Jones, N. & Rogers, P.  (2003).  preoccupation, food, and failure: An investigation of cognitive performance deficits in dieters. international Journal of Eating Disorders, 33(2), 185-192.

Mann, T., de Ridder, D., & Fujita, K.  Self-regulation of health behavior: Social psychological approaches to,goal setting and goal striving. Health Psychology, 23(5), 487-498.

Stoddard, S., Zimmerman, M., & Bauemeister, J.  (2011).  Thinking about the future as a way to succeed in the future: A longitudinal study of future orientation and violent behaviors among African American youth. American Journal of Community Psychology, 48(3-4), 238-246.

It’s A Lifestyle Change

“Progress not perfection”.  I have said that probably a thousand times.  “Fitness is a lifestyle change”.  I have also said that a thousand times.  Yet despite the frequency we are reminded of these encouraging statements, people continue to struggle with the process of living a healthy lifestyle.  I want to spend some time talking about living a healthy life and explain how distracted views, unrealistic goals, and difficult expectations make fitness for life challenging.

I want to start with my personal journey.  I was not athletic as a child.  I was not tough or strong.  I was sensitive, creative, whimsical, and fun.  I wanted to spend my time hanging out with friends and sought to discover life on my own terms.  At a young age I started to experiment with drugs and alcohol.  It is by the grace of God that I never physically harmed or arrested, although I did land myself into some legal troubles, during my escapades.  I witnessed numerous friends make life altering choices that left emotional, mental, and physical scars.  I saw myself go from a secure young lady to a confused and morally lacking young adult.  All I cared about was the next party or the next opportunity to hang out.  This lifestyle started to negatively impact my professional future.  I was at a University and I was broke, alone, miserable, and depressed.  One night my parents had an intervention with me and threatened to pull me out of Baylor University.  Mind you, going to Baylor had been my childhood dream.  They threatened to force me home, make me get a job, and start drug and alcohol rehab.  I had hit “rock bottom”.  I re-focused my priorities and my responsibilities, found a job, and I was able to find a balance to graduate successfully from Baylor University.

Image

Picture of me and a friend not long after graduation from Baylor – I am the brunette and at a heavier weight.

I was quickly accepted to graduate school in Chicago, Illinois.  Living in Chicago proved to be too much for this young, small town girl.  I quickly returned to the party lifestyle.  My days were spent in school and my nights consisted of drinking and dancing until it was time to go back to class. My diet consisted of “hangover food” from any grease filled fast-food chain or Chicago-style pizza.  Needless to say I was overweight.  Eventually I added an internship to this mix.  I worked with children that had witnessed domestic violence or abuse and helped mothers that had been violently abused by their partners navigate the court process and start the emotional healing process.  Most days I left my “job” in tears feeling hopeless and angry of the hate that existed in the world.  This only fueled my desire to drink more.  I  held it together long enough to graduate with a 4.0 and land my “dream job” immediately following graduation.  I worked with young women with eating disorders, trauma, and substance abuse issues.  Rather than carefully learn to cope with what I heard and saw I choose to cope by staying up until 5 and 6 in the morning drinking and eating poorly.  It all caught up to me one morning as I was driving to work on a busy Chicago interstate when I had to pull-over and vomit from being too drunk from the night before.  During supervision later that day, my director looked at me and asked, “Is anyone using drugs or alcohol to cope?”.  Although I knew she was talking to me I denied this to her, the group, and to myself.

I was a hot mess.  I was overweight, sick, and hated myself.  It was time for a change.  During this time my sister was planning a wedding.  I purchased my bridesmaid dress and gained so much weight that when I needed to have it altered the seamstress said to me, “why do you buy a dress and gain so much weight”? I was at least 4-6 dress sizes bigger!  My wake up call came when I moved for a job to a small East Texas town.  My friend and I decided that in order to save money we would stop eating out and drinking for 60 days.  I bought food to eat at home and since my social life was lacking I bought 2 $10 dance workout DVDs.  This was late 2006 that I started to eat healthy and workout.  I started using the DVDs in my living room 3 days a week.  I started feeling better.  I started spending time working on my spiritual life grew spirituality and emotionally.  I had improved self-esteem, confidence, and fulfilled relationships.  I was truly happy.

I am not sure what I weighed when I started my journey in 2006.  I do know at one point I weighed as much as 160 pounds and I was wearing between a size 12 and size 14.  However as I improved my life my physical body started to shed weight.  My clothes got bigger.  They were so big they were uncomfortable to wear.  I had to buy a whole new wardrobe.  I became stronger and started working out in my apartment complex fitness center.  It felt so good to be in charge of my life that I was working out 5 days a week.  As I continued to work on myself I obtained a job promotion and once again moved.  This time I moved to a suburb of Houston.  I was thin, happy, and confident.  I started to workout more.  I was the girl in the gym 3 hours a day 7 days a week.  I read books and journals on food and found that I was eating less and less.  After reading Skinny Bitch, which I advise anyone interested in the quality of our food to read, I threw away all the food in my house and vowed to be vegan.  I lost even more weight.  People commented on my body and my physique and how they wanted my abs, my arms, and sought to weigh as much as I did.

Sadly I, too, was obsessed with the number on the scale.  I thought that if I weighed a certain number I would have achieved the ultimate goal.  As I lost more weight I became sicker both emotionally and physically.  I lost my period for several months.  I would weigh myself 3 times a day and if the number went up, I would lock myself in my house, cry, and tell myself I was fat.  One night I had plans to hang out with friends.  These were great plans too, it was going to be a fun night.  However, I weighed before I left for the night and I had gained.  I drove around for 2 hours crying and squeezing all the “fat” on my body.  I drove home and knew I had a problem.

Image

A picture of me at my thinnest – I was unhealthy and obsessed with the number on the scale.

I had to find “balance”.  That was the word my psychologist said to me and it made total sense.  I had spent my life letting something consume my thoughts, behaviors, and my emotions.  She explained I could have health, fitness, friends, professional success, and love all at the same time.  When I stopped worrying about achieving a particular goal and enjoyed the daily process I was able to find balance.  This was 2009.  Since that time I enjoy the daily process.  I enjoy the work that needs to be done today because in 6 weeks, 6 months, 1 year, 6 years, I will be a different, better, and more fabulous place.

Image

How I started to look as I found a balance – I was fit, active, healthy, successful, and happy.

So many people ask me, “what do I do to lose weight?”, “what do I do to have toned arms?”, or “what do I do to have a better booty?”  Here is the answer – WORK – every single day!  The fitness instructor you see or the toned and strong person you see in the gym did not wake up looking that way.  They have been working toward their physique everyday.  Most often for YEARS!  They embrace the daily grind and know the decisions made today will lead to results tomorrow.

Image

Progress picture – from early in my prep

 Image

Progress this week – 8 total weeks!

I know so many people that spend hours in the gym, and they are in every group fitness class.  As a group fitness instructor I love people like you in my classes.  You make my classes fun and challenging.  However if you want to see progress the key is not to spend hours in group fitness classes.  (Please keep coming to class, but understand I did not achieve my physique by attending group fitness classes).  However I want to keep you from hitting rock bottom and having to experience the emotional and psychological pain I felt.  I want you to know that you can achieve a healthy lifestyle.

The key to living a healthy lifestyle is to eat with balance, workout with balance, and live life with balance.  You must eat healthy.  Your diet must be consistent from day to day.  A healthy lifestyle is actively making a decision to chose to eat fruit instead of cake at the company party and not feeling deprived.  A healthy lifestyle means eating a meal at home rather than the drive thru.  A healthy lifestyle means drinking water instead of soda, EVERY SINGLE DAY!  However living this lifestyle means that you can afford to eat cake or you can afford a nice dinner at restaurant and do it guilt free and without sabotaging your hard work.

Living a healthy lifestyle is knowing that physical fitness and exercise is necessary for mental, physical, and emotional health.  It is a decision to workout daily.  It is knowing that a balanced workout regime should include some cardio and strength training.  Your cycle instructor with the toned arms did not get toned arms from riding a stationary bicycle.  No, the lean arms comes from lifting weights.  My physique did not come from teaching cycle or RIPPED, no it came from lifting heavy and hard before and sometimes after class.

A healthy lifestyle means it is OK to say “no”.  There are times when your family will need your attention, your support, and your love.  Family is always more important than a workout.  You can plan accordingly and get your workouts in prior to the commitment and enjoy a family day and a rest day at the same time.  Rest is necessary to build muscle and burn fat.  You body will not improve if it is constantly under stress from working out.

Going to the gym consistently 3-4 days a week, or more, for 6 months may not yield the results you want.  If you started working out in January and still have weight to lose and muscles to tone than keep going.  If every time you work out you expect to reach your goal, you will never be satisfied.  A healthy lifestyle means doing the work because you know that each day you get a little better.  Give up on achieving your goal and start living life.  Start living a life where you choose health, you chose happiness, you choose love, and you choose wellness.  One day you will look back and see how far you have come!

Not your typical “fluffy” fitspo post!

I have written posts on here about working to better myself.  I have read blogs and posters that remind me “I am my own competition”, and all fitness motivation sites urge me to be better today than I was yesterday.  The quest to be a better person is exciting.  The belief that I can work to improve myself, my situation, and my body each day is motivating and inspiring.  But let’s be honest here for a moment – this “fluff” is at the same time, FRUSTRATING!

In order to believe I am capable of being a better person today I have to believe that I am a good person.  The desire to self-motivate implies I have enough esteem and self love to convince myself I am good enough to be better.  Not everyone has self love.  Many of us are filled with self-doubt, shame, regret, and disrespect ourselves.

Decreased self-esteem keeps us small.  It keeps us from pursuing our true potential.  The problem with self-motivating tips and encouragement that uses lines like, “I am my own competition” is these do not work if I do not like who I am and I do not see much to strive for.  We are very self-critical and it is likely you judge yourself, your behaviors, your thoughts, and your body.  You see what is wrong.  You see what needs to improve.  Sure you see others improving their bodies and their lives but because you are unsure of what you can do, you do not see your potential.

People that self-evaluate and seek to improve self have a tendency to also focus on weaknesses.  I am going to get a bit personal here.  I am 9 weeks into my prep for a bodybuilding (bikini) competition.  The season has commenced and many have already competed.  I follow several accounts on social media as a means to motivate myself, and I witness my inspirations compete and succeed.  I see their physique and compare my body to their body.  When I do this I think, “I am not prepared” because I see they look better than me.  (Please don’t see this as a means to obtain sympathy or encouragement – I am being really honest here – we all think these things – many just won’t admit it).  I see their legs and then I see my legs, my greatest weakness.  My legs is where I hold my body fat.  My upper body is lean and vascular however rather than focus on my best area, I focus on my worst.  For so long I used this weakness as my motivation to work hard in the gym and lift harder in order to train and shape my legs.  Sadly I started to dread leg day and I started to feel weaker in my legs, rather than stronger.  This only caused further frustration.  As I continued to use self-talk and encourage myself that “I can improve myself”, “I am the barrier”, and “I am my own competition” my legs slowly started to look better.

The problem starts when I compare myself to others.  In the fitness world there are fit and beautiful people everywhere, it is hard to NOT compare myself to them.  I tell you this to let you know that, first of all, you are normal.  Secondly even fit people, people that compete, see weakness and compare their weaknesses to others.  Lastly do not be discouraged if you struggle with self-motivation and pushing yourself to the next level.  I understand.  We compare ourselves to others but many fitness motivators discourage us from this.  They ask us to see our own strengths and improve our weaknesses.  Yes this is true, and yes it works, but why not use others to motivate us as well?

As I pour over fitness pages for encouragement and motivation I see girls with well-defined quads.  They boast of their ability to lift heavy and their ability to break personal records (lift heavier than they have been able to lift previously).  I want to be like them, at least have their quads, so why not lift like them?  If I want to achieve a goal that another person has successfully achieved I am going to do what they do.  I am not ashamed to say I am a copy cat.  If they can increase how much they dead lift, then so can I.  Once I started to think this way I walked into my next leg training session with encouragement and motivation.  I was able to lift heavier and even set personal records.

I became comfortable with myself, at least comfortable enough in the work I was putting into my training, and stopped pushing myself.  I needed to see my weaknesses compared to others and I needed to use that motivate myself to work harder.  We need a challenge, at times, otherwise we become complacent. But if we are going to change and improve we need a challenge, and we need things to be hard.  Losing weight, maintaining weight, living a healthy lifestyle is NOT easy. If it were easy obesity would not be considered an epidemic.  Just like any thing in life we reach a period where our motivation will decrease.  No one has 100% motivation 100% of the time.  I encourage you to work to be a better you.  I encourage you to focus on how you can improve.  You are your own competition.  But I also encourage you to work to be better than your motivation.  Seek people who motivate and encourage you and then work to be better than them.  Compete with yourself but know that it is OK to compete with others too.  They say there is only 1 winner.  If that is true I want that to be me! Therefore I will work harder to be better than myself and better than my competition.  If you want to win and be successful I encourage you to work harder to be your best self but also work harder to beat me!