thoughts on health and fitness

It’s been almost two months since Josh and I started revamping our approach to health.  With the new year coming up, it feels like a really good time to revisit what we’ve been doing differently and why.  So here, in no particular order, are the five biggest things we’ve learned over the past two months of our journey toward better health.

1. If you’re hungry, eat.  One of the biggest misconceptions about losing weight is that the less you eat, the more you’ll lose.  False.  What’s true, though, is that when you drastically cut down on the amount you’re eating, your body slows down your metabolism.  It’s supposed to; it thinks you’re in a period of famine, and that it needs to make all the calories you’re taking in last as long as possible, so it’s going to hold onto fat like that’s its job.  Because it is.  If you’re drinking a SlimFast for breakfast (don’t even get me started on that mess), eating a Healthy Choice frozen meal for lunch (really…don’t even get me started on that mess), and having a salad for dinner, you are not eating enough.  Not even close.  If that’s you’re usual MO when it comes to weight loss and you always end up putting it back on, that’s why.  Treating your metabolism like crap isn’t healthy or sustainable.

2. Cut your intake of processed foods wayyyyyy down, if not out completely.  That means soda, that means fast food, that means grocery-store foods with ingredients listed that you wouldn’t cook with in your own kitchen.  That’s the only calorie-cutting you need to do.  If your great-great grandmother didn’t eat it as a kid, don’t build your diet around it.  Eat meat, veggies, fruit, plenty of healthy fats.  That said, it’s also really important to find a balance.  For example, if a friend wants to meet me for dessert, you can be sure I’m going to go, and I’m going to take a piece of chocolate cake to the face.  Bonus is, I’m not going to feel even a little bit guilty about it.  Not because I’m planning to go work off all the calories on the treadmill (hate that thing) later, but because I know that if I’m eating whole, fresh foods 90% of the time, that other 10% isn’t going to kill me.  I’m all for being healthy and treating my body well, but I’m not neurotic.  And you shouldn’t be either.

3. That treadmill is not the only tool in the fitness toolbox.  It’s not even the best one, if you ask me.  Honestly, since the day Josh and I started working out almost two months ago, I’ve maybe been on a treadmill five times.  Maybe.  I fell in love with weightlifting, and it’s treating my body incredibly well.  Dropping fat and building myself a booty, y’all.  There are a lot of amazing training programs out there for free that can take you from beginner to meathead.  Bodybuilding and Muscle and Strength are two fantastic websites to start with.  I’m still new to lifting myself, so I’m better off to point you in the direction of the experts than to give you my own advice based on a whopping eight weeks, but here’s the one thing I will say: if you’re going to lift, don’t spend the next two years lifting five pound weights.  Lift heavy.  Even if you’re a girl.  It will not make you bulky or turn you into a man.  I promise.  If you’re in doubt, google Paige Hathaway.  If that woman looks like a dude, you can go ahead and sign me up to look like a dude.  Today, please.

4. Don’t use exercise as a punishment for making bad food choices.  Honestly, I never thought I would be the person who loved working out, but I really do.  And I believe that’s partly because at this point in my life, I don’t use it as punishment.  Ever.  It’s much less “I have to workout so I get to eat like crap,” and much more, “I’m eating well and my energy is high and feeling my body get stronger is a little like crack.”  I know that I’m going to get up and go to the gym every morning, regardless of what I ate the day before.  And I’m going to do it because right now I feel better than I have in years, physically and mentally.  I’m going to do it because I found something I enjoy.  For the longest time, I thought I needed to be a runner, because I thought that was the best and most efficient way to lose fat and stay healthy.  And so I tried, and tried, and I always quit because running is just not rewarding to me.  It’s not fun, I don’t enjoy it, and I would start off with the best of intentions and QUIT. EVERY. TIME.  And then came the magical day when I found out that running was not necessarily the best or most efficient way to lose fat and stay healthy.  Weightlifting changed how I feel about exercise completely.  I love it.  Give me a weight bench and the occasional yoga class and I’m happy as a clam.  All that to say, find what works for you.  The best workout is the one that you keep doing.  If it’s Zumba? Get in there and shake it to your heart’s content.  If it’s running? Lace up and head out.  Try different things and find the thing you love.  You won’t regret it, and working out will never feel like a punishment for bad choices.  Ever again.

5. Have a bigger reason than “to look good.”  Honestly, I cannot stress this enough.  I know that today, it feels like that’s a good enough reason, and it will be for awhile.  But one day, you’ll wake up to a really bad day and there will be PMS and irrationality in abundance and you will think, “Yep.  I want to take a family-size order of cheesy breadsticks to the face more than I want to look good.”  You have to have a bigger reason, preferably a bunch of bigger reasons.  For Josh and I, it’s holistic health.  We are both from families that have very high incidences of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and so on and so forth.  So frankly? We’re doing this because we’re determined to stick around and live an abundant life.  Of course, I want to be a sexy wife.  But more than that, I want to be a healthy wife.  A wife who’s here, who’s energetic, who’s playful and feisty.  I want to be a wife who doesn’t give my husband the impression that it’s more important that I get to eat whatever I want, whenever I want than it is that I be around for him.  And my husband wants to be the same thing for me.  And one day, there will be kids, and we’ll want to be around for them, and to be able to really live life with them.  We want to do justice to the life we’ve been given, and for us, part of that is taking care of the body we’ve got.  You have to find your bigger reason, because at the end of the day, that will be what makes it happen.

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