If you’re a fan of musical theater (like I am) you have inevitably heard these famous lyrics:
“525,600 minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?”
Well, I can actually measure the last 10 years—in diets.
2004 to 2014 was my era of yo-yo dieting. Here’s how it looked: South Beach, Nutrisystem, Atkins, Rice Diet, Weight Watchers, Dukan Diet, Low-Carb diet, Fast Diet, Very-Low-Calorie-Diet. In processed food, in hunger, in no-calorie sweetness, in bathroom scales.
Can I measure those 10 years in exercise?
I sure can—it looks like a million hours on an elliptical machine. I didn’t see exercise as anything other than a weight loss tactic. Those hours on the elliptical were purely to burn calories, to get myself skinny and to work off the “mistakes” I’d made the day before.
Exercising was just another way to get to my goal weight and, more often than not, a punishment for my indulgences throughout the week.
What was the end result of those 10 years of quick fix diets, hours of listless cardio and calorie counting?
A severely damaged metabolism, little to no muscle and a horrible relationship with food. I was always either dieting or binge-ing, all while resenting the gym and hating my body.
I’d also spent way too much money on crash diet books, diet products, diet programs and exercise tapes that promised me “a new hot bod in 10 minutes.”
My body was in starvation mode, I was putting on weight like crazy and I continued to lower my calorie count.
I remember the day that everything clicked into place. I’d been exercising twice a day for the past month, all on 800 calories a day. I stepped on the scale and…I’d gained a pound!
I had trained my body to survive on way too little calories and it was beginning to store any and all extra calories as fat. And, with no other energy, my body had been eating away at my muscle for extra fuel. Essentially, I had completely wrecked my metabolism.
That’s when I decided to stop. Stop dieting, stop feeding into the industry diet craze and stop hating my body. I threw away my scale and all the “skinny” clothes that served as an extra marker of weight gain or loss.
I vowed to rebuild my body and to never diet again. I was no longer focusing on weight loss—I was focusing on strength.
I started to research weight lifting methods and exercises. I began to lift weights at my gym, starting out very small (like 2 pound dumbbells small…sometimes no weights at all! Air is resistance too!).
Muscles need fuel to grow and I began to eat more before and after my workouts.
Eventually, I realized my eating habits had completely shifted. I was no longer starving myself for weight loss—I was feeding my strength.
Now, was I completely able to break my old eating habits? Not entirely. They definitely come back from time to time. I still have a voice in my telling me that I’m not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not worth the plate of food in front of me.
My body image still isn’t fantastic and I know that I need to work on that.
But am I strong? Hell yeah! I love walking into a gym and lifting heavy. I love the newly visible muscles on my legs and thighs – and I love the fact that now, after years of starvation and binging, I don’t see food as an obstacle to weight loss, but as a necessary supplement to my fit lifestyle.
Now, I’m not saying that weight lifting is for everyone. Weight lifting changed my behavior and moved me out of a decade of yo-yo dieting but everyone has their own journey.
A good friend of mine found salvation in Zumba. He never enjoyed exercise until he walked into a Zumba class.
Suddenly, he was having a blast and getting fit in the process. And, in order to better his Zumba technique, he began to slowly tweak his food habits. Now, he’s 80 pounds lighter and a Zumba instructor!
Basically, I’m saying that the cycle of being stuck in a yo-yo diet cycle may seem endless but it’s not.
It can be broken and you can develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise. If you move your goals away from weight loss and the industry trend of “quick-fix diets” and instead focus on health and personal fulfillment, you can develop lasting habits that will end the pattern of weight gain and diets.
Look to mend your relationship with food and exercise in a new, exciting way. Find a mode of exercise that humors you, take a cooking class and fall in love with whole, yummy, unprocessed food. Find a gym buddy, commit to a bootcamp or simply give yourself a break.
Everyone has the potential to change and grow.
Will it be easy? Hell no. Will your body and mind thank you? Absolutely. And that’s all that matters.
“No day but today!”
Sorry, I just wanted to end on a lyric from Rent. 🙂