Every now and again someone comments on my weight. Usually in a kind way, mostly to say something along the lines of “How can you make and eat so much food and stay so thin?” It’s always a little weird to hear someone else’s thoughts on your weight. It’s even harder to talk about body image. Most of us probably think about it, but to actually say anything about what we do or how we feel is hard. I’ve debated a lot about if I wanted to share my story or not. It’s a scary thing. The subject makes me feel a little self-conscious. And the last thing I would ever want is to make someone else feel self-conscious. But I am super proud of my journey over the last two years. It’s my story to tell, and I’d like to share it with you.
I first want to get one thing off my chest. I have never thought I was fat. I really don’t like the word fat either. Frankly, it’s not a very specific descriptor, nor encouraging, and it can be quite dismissive. Not interested. That being said, I’d be a liar if I told you that I haven’t paid attention my weight since high school. Never in an obsessive way. But for every season of my life, I can (generally) tell you how much I weighed. Since graduating college my weight has been everywhere from 140 lbs to 115 lbs. (I’m 5′ 4″) Like I said, I don’t believe I was ever fat while being any of these different weights. But I do remember not loving how my clothes fit when I was at my heaviest. I always wanted to wear loose jeans and cardigans. I hated wearing anything tight or form fitting. I also didn’t feel as good. Recently I was cleaning out my closet and I found an old journal from about three years ago. In one entry I was complaining about how I wanted to lose some weight, because I felt tired all the time. Although, at that time I had NO idea how to go about this. I had never successfully lost weight in my life.
About two years ago, I moved back to the Midwest to be near my family and work with my sister. She had just purchased a larger local shop and her blog (this blog, this one right here!) was beginning to grow. Needless to say, we were extremely busy. I worked every day, most of the day. Cleaning and fixing up the shop. Updating and managing the online business. Setting up systems for this or that, etc. It’s amazing how much time everything takes. Anyway. Being so busy from doing a job I loved around my family made me so happy. I didn’t have a lot of time to snack, so I tried to make the most of every meal (nutritionally). And I noticed after about three months that I had lost some weight and felt more energetic. This was so encouraging because I had never lost weight in my life before. And that was the first time that I realized small (diet) changes could make a big difference over time if you stick with them. So I started making more positive changes, like saving sugary foods as a treat only and not something I ate everyday. Just little things that add up over time.
In October of last year I went through a break up. It happens. Obviously, I was pretty bummed out. I decided to take that season of my life and make it a positive one, even though it was a painful one. I made a few goals, started some new habits and projects. I needed things to keep me busy, but I also tried to fill my time with things I really wanted and things that would challenge me. One thing I did around this time was join a gym. I am NOT athletic. I’m not really a “gym person.” But. I wanted to make fitness a part of my life. I started going to fitness classes at my gym regularly. Elsie went with me too. I found that I really liked a few of them. I don’t feel super comfortable in dance aerobics type classes, simply because I am super uncoordinated. But I really liked the cycling class and the weight lifting class. I still take the weight lifting class (called “Body Pump”—yep!) a couple times every week. I also started to try and find more vegetables that I enjoy and find new ways of preparing them (this is when I first discovered brussels sprouts!). A few months later I did the couch to 5K challenge, and I started to actually enjoy running. I still run once or twice every week. Elsie and I plan to do the Turkey Trot again this year (a 5K fun run on Thanksgiving morning for charity). I’m a pretty busy lady, so I don’t always get to work out as often as I would like. I sometimes have to skip a class if we have a big deadline at work. And that’s ok. But I actually really enjoy it, so I make it a priority.
And you know what? After working out for a few months I lost a little more weight. I am currently the thinnest I’ve been since graduating high school. But that’s not really the point. Or, at least, it wasn’t for me. I feel so much better when I’m active. I feel more in control of my life. I feel less stressed. And I feel more energetic. Plus, I can eat a little more because I’m hungrier than I used to be (I think because my metabolism changed, because I’m burning more calories). Bonus! I feel super proud that I took a painful season of my life and started this new healthy habit (Yay for one year of fitness!). And that means more to me than a number on a scale. Don’t get me wrong, I do like being thinner than I used to be. But eating better and working out has given me more confidence in my appearance, because I know I am working hard to look and feel my best. I might not be as thin as other ladies, and I might go through a season in life where I gain some weight. But I always plan to stay healthy and eat well. So I will never lose that confidence that this is my personal best effort, and I can be proud of that.
1. Start small. Don’t start a major diet and run 5 miles every morning and do rock climbing every weekend. You’ll burn yourself out. You’ll feel stressed by the time commitment. Make a small goal, maybe even with a finish line date (like the couch to 5K challenge I did) and do it. After success with a small goal you can try something bigger. And you’ll feel more confident from completing this first challenge you set for yourself.
2. Love what you eat. I’ve had a few people ask me what my “secret” is since you can pretty easily see I love cookies and cake and pie (not to mention cheese and pasta and beer!). I eat what I love, but in moderation. Dieting has never worked for me. I do a bad job of keeping track of calories or points or whatever the new thing is. If that works for you, then do it. But I haven’t had any success with diets. I eat what I love in moderation. I have one or two cookies, instead of four or five. I make an effort to find fruits and vegetables that I love and eat those a lot more. I don’t eat, unless I’m hungry. I listen to my body and its needs. For me, keeping it simple like this is best. But I won’t lie. It does require some self control. Which is learned skill. And if I can do it, so can you!
3. Do something active that you enjoy. You don’t have to go running if you hate running. It’s ok. If joining a gym doesn’t fit in your budget, don’t be discouraged. There are so many fun (and free) ways to get active. You could clean your house. Take your dog on a hike. Ride your bike to the grocery store. Volunteer to help pack boxes for a food pantry. Whatever. Just try to get active for an hour a few times a week.
4. Make it a habit. Yes, I mean you have to keep doing it. For forever! You can’t expect any kind of change after only a week or two. Duh. But also I mean that you should make changes that you can make habits out of. This is why I don’t believe in crash diets or extreme fitness plans. It’s not sustainable. Make a small change and do it consistently. For example, try to not drink soda for a month and replace it with water (or the occasional juice or coffee, don’t get deprived!). For many folks this would be a challenge, and you should feel proud if you do it! But it’s also a sustainable change that you could stick with for a long period of time.
5. Do it for you. My fitness story starts with me going through a lot of (sometimes hard) changes and trying to make a positive change for me. I don’t work out for others. I do it for me, because I feel better when I’m active. Outside motivators are great, but to really achieve success YOU have to want it.
Best wishes to you on your own journey. XO. Emma