Years ago, I was put on several medications to treat anxiety, depression, along with other issues. This caused me to gain roughly 50 pounds in several months, when I had never had a true issue with weight before. I had disordered eating and plenty of problems, but I had never been anything more than slightly chubby. I remained around this high weight for a couple of years, while I was on different medications and working my way through different therapists.
One day, I made the decision to quit all medication and try a different approach. Using medication to treat psychological problems is a wonderful thing for millions of people, but for some of us, it creates greater problems that are even more difficult to surmount. After struggling through the withdrawal process (which I do not recommend doing in the manner I chose to – please see a doctor), I awoke from my constant state of dissociation and decided to lose weight.
Unfortunately, weight loss was my only concern. A lot had changed about my body after that weight gain, and it had me panicked. I took all the awful information I’d absorbed from years of magazine articles and television and decided to eat 1500 calories per day and do an hour of steady-state cardio 5 times per week. Of course, I lost weight. Did my eating habits or composition change? No. I became a smaller version of the same sad girl. In fact, in some ways, I was even more sad.
Plowing through the weeks, counting calories and pounding my feet on the treadmill, I lost 70 pounds. I looked alright, but I was still exactly the same. I didn’t feel better, stronger, or even accomplished health-wise. Most importantly, I hated what I was doing so much that I saw it as something that had to come to an end when my goals were met.
This is some really, really toxic thinking where overall wellness and health is concerned. If you don’t look forward to your program, I am here to assure you that you have chosen the wrong path for yourself. Sure, the first three or four weeks of forming any new habit will be a challenge, but after that, you should struggle very little with living your new life. Sure, it is only expected to have days where you skip a workout, or don’t eat well, but overall, if you are honoring yourself and your interests, you should be jumping at the opportunity to exercise and eat well.
After maintaining my loss for 2 years, I hit my breaking point with the plan I was sticking to. 5 hours of moderate intensity cardio per week and a fairly low protein, high fat diet was not exciting me anymore. I was tired, exercised less and less, and binged and restricted more. My weight slowly crept back up over the next couple of years, and although I never hit such a high weight again, I hovered around 165 pounds, which is not a healthy weight for a small-framed woman standing 5’6 tall. I had given up. I stopped exercising completely, aside from a walk a couple times per week, which frankly, should be a normal part of life and not part of a structured exercise plan.
In 2015, I started a new job. Still living with parents, I had an hour commute. I still wasn’t exercising, and I started to eat in an extremely unhealthy pattern. Due to anxiety, I was unable to eat all day at the job, so I would eat a large meal before work, and then eat another large meal about 12 hours later after I got home. I was eating probably 2500 calories per day, and then restricting to 1300 on other days when I felt guilty about “being fat”. Through this guilty feeling alone, I lost about 15 pounds. I focused on food and eating way too much, to the point of it triggering a swallowing anxiety I have struggled with since childhood. I was not in a good place.
After working this new job for roughly a year and a half, I began to feel more comfortable. I had leveled out slightly and lost another 5 pounds through portion control. But, I craved self-improvement and change, and I took my past experiences with health and weight loss and decided I deserve better. I began to do some strength training, and eat more protein and healthy foods. I noticed something amazing start to happen with each day I chose strength training: I actually wanted to do it, and enjoyed every minute of it!
I still gravitated toward cardio and cutting calories aggressively, and let me tell you that ignoring my body’s pleas to cut less aggressively and do less cardio caused a lot of hiccups in progress. Weeks were skipped, binges were still a regular occurrence, and my weight still fluctuated. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that it all fell into place. I came to the exciting realization: You can do whatever the fuck you want, in any quantity, because if you want to do it, you will naturally succeed.
This is not a new idea, but it is one that is hard for ladies and men alike to accept, especially when you are insecure about your body or your health. I am begging you, ignore your insecurities and listen to your body. If you love to run, run whenever you get the chance. If you hate steady-state cardio, don’t plan to do it. Sounds like awful advice, but the truth is that doing any physical activity in combination with good nutrition will yield amazing results if you stick to it.
I wish you good luck, and hope that you choose to get better at the things you love. Don’t let anyone tell you there is only one way to accomplish your goals.