At the end of the holiday season, people start thinking about their health and fitness goals for the following year. But many people give up their goals even before the first month of the year is over. That's why I recently decided to share my own transformation – something that brought me out of my comfort zone.
April 2017 – today In the past, I probably would not have posted anything like that. But when I'm working to transform the stories of other people who have changed for @precisionnutrition in the last few weeks, that has turned me inside. In April 2017, although I had worked for years in the fitness industry as a writer and editor, I felt like I was missing a secret that gave me my "best body ever". Here's what I did not know: there is no secret. What you need to do to change your body is hard. It requires reflection, honesty, and the courage to face the unpleasant feelings associated with change. My body has not changed in 12 weeks. The changes in body composition that I have experienced are the result of many small changes I have made over time. Here are the three most important things I learned along the way: • When it comes to training, more is not always better. I did intensive HIIT training 5-6 days a week. Then I met @sterkher and she put an end to it. These days I train with heavy 3/4 days a week. No burpees are required (unless you like them.) If you want to change your body composition, you need to pay attention to your diet. The change in diet is not easy. For me it brought with it all sorts of emotions about the food that I did not expect. I have counted macros for almost 2 years (most recently under the guidance of the amazing @soheefit). Macros do not suit everyone, but they worked well for me. In 2019, my goal is to move to mindful / intuitive eating. Perfection is the enemy of progress. I still drink alcohol in moderation. I still eat foods that are not "clean". The key to me was learning to be "good enough" rather than trying to be perfect. This experience was a big part of why I chose @miloeducation and became a trainer myself. We've all heard that you can love your body and want to change it at the same time, but how can you actually move into that space? Not clear. But every time I work with a client, that's my ultimate goal: love your body and all the cool stuff he can do first. The rest will come. #transformation
I took the photo left in April 2017.
I was satisfied with my body, and I loved to exercise. But I felt I should be slimmer for my work in the gym. Because of my work as a writer and editor in the health and fitness industry, I knew a lot about different diets and exercise protocols that were supposed to help * me * get the body I wanted, but for some reason I could not do that. It happens.
To the right of me, 20 months later, my mindset, eating habits and training schedule are completely different. I'm still working as a writer and editor, but now I'm also a certified personal trainer. Finally I have the body I wanted and the best? I am confident that I can sustain it.
That means it took a lot of work to get to where I am now. Over the last 20 months, I have learned the following, as well as how I actually changed my body after years of trying and failing.
. 1 There is no secret.
This is probably what people least want to hear, but it is also the truest. I really thought there was a simple secret to getting my best body I ever missed.
I tried to go milk-free. I got into CrossFit hard. I danced cardio every day for three months. I thought about doing Whole30. I have tried well researched supplements like fish oil, creatine and magnesium.
There is nothing wrong with these things. They all probably made me healthier and maybe even fitter. But the aesthetic results that I wanted? They just did not happen.
That's because I missed the big picture. Making a big change is not enough.
There was nothing that helped me to change my body. Instead, it was the combination of many small changes in diet, fitness and lifestyle that I had made.
. 2 When it comes to training, more is not always better.
In my before picture, I trained five to six times a week. What I did not know was that it was completely unnecessary for my body and my goals, and it might have made it harder for me to make progress. (See also: How to train less and get better results)
Training so often has made me feel that burning tons of calories (overestimating how many calories you burn by moving them is a common phenomenon) then, in the end, I would overeat, thanks to the appetite I found. While not all people do, many people believe that cardiovascular exercise increases hunger, making it harder to adhere to nutritional goals – and that was definitely my experience.
I also train very hard without getting enough rest can lead to overtraining, making it harder to lose weight. Looking back, I suspect that the fatigue and difficulty of losing weight that I experienced a few years ago was partly due to overtraining.
Now I train a maximum of three to four days a week. When I take a break from work, I work harder while working in the gym . (See also: I started to train less and now I'm fitter than ever.)
I also started to enjoy my workout more as the fitness training did not feel like a daily job that needed to be done. Instead, it was a chance to try to increase the weights I used in each session. That was the key because progressive overloading can help you see results faster.
. 3 You do not have to feel like fainting after every workout.
HIIT is a well-researched exercise method. The benefits are numerous. It is time efficient, burns many calories, and provides a significant endorphin boost.
But do you know what else is really well researched? Strength training. About one and a half years ago, I started working with a new coach. I explained to her that I raise heavy on two days a week and HIIT four days a week.
Her advice shocked me: less HIIT, more weight lifting. Their reason was simple: it just is not necessary. (See also: 11 Main Benefits for Lifting Health and Fitness)
If my goal was to reshape my body and lose weight, lifting weights was the most efficient way. Why? When eating in a calorie deficit, lifting weights helps (and sometimes even builds) muscle mass while losing fat. (This is also called a recomposition of the body.)
Why do you want to build muscle when trying to lose weight? Gaining muscle mass not only helps you burn more calories at rest, it also gives your body shape and definition. In the end, that's what many women really want – whether they know it or not – not just losing fat, but replacing it with shapely muscles.
My trainer encouraged me to do HIIT once or twice a week. If I liked it, after a few months I realized that I did not like it that much. I did not need a face dripping with sweat to feel that I got a great workout. Instead, milestones such as the first pull-up (and finally the fivefold series of fives), my first 200-pound cudgel deadlift, and my first double-weight hip stroke were more satisfying.
Plus, I got a pretty intense heart rate boost by lifting heavy weights. Between sets, my heart rate would drop again, and then I would start the next set and increase it again. I realized that I was actually doing HIIT, so I said goodbye to Burpee's and Squat jumps and never looked back.
. 4 You can not ignore your diet.
For years I avoided the difficult, research-based truth that exercise alone would not get me where I wanted to be. I figured if I'm Crossfit five times a week, I can eat whatever I want, right? Uh, wrong.
To lose weight, you have to have a calorie deficit. In other words, eat less than burn. While this intense HIIT training burned a lot of calories, I directly recharged them with these four glasses of wine, cheese boards, and nocturnal pizza orders. When I started tracking my meals and controlling my calorie intake (I used macros, but there are many other ways to control calorie intake), I began to see the results I was looking for. (See also: Your Complete Guide to the IIFYM or Macro Diet)
5. Changing your diet is tough.
There was a reason why I had refused to change my diet. I like to eat. And I still do that.
Overeating was never really a problem for me until I got my first full-time job after college. I knew that I was incredibly happy working in my dream industry, but I worked very long and was extremely tense because it was a high pressure environment and I knew there were hundreds of qualified applicants if I did not do my job who would like to take my place.
At the end of the day I just wanted to treat myself. And most often that came in the form of food. Within a year of completing college, I had cost 10 pounds. Over the next six or seven years, I added another 15 to my frame. Of course, this was part of the muscle of my long-term practice, but I knew it was body fat as well.
Switching to choosing my diet was not easy. It became very clear that I take food not just for nutrition and enjoyment. I used it to calm down deep, uncomfortable feelings. And as soon as I stop eating too much? I had to find other ways to deal with them.
Exercise is a great opportunity, but I've also talked to friends and family over the phone, taken more time for self-care, and hugged my dog a lot. I have also learned to prepare tons of healthy meals, which can be surprisingly therapeutic. Spending time eating my food helped me feel more connected and helped me to better understand my food intake.
. 6 Do not give up the food you love.
Just because I cooked well does not mean that I've never eaten anything fun. As you take your favorite foods out of your diet, you become even more unhappy and craving them even more – at least that was my experience. (The damage and inefficiency of the restriction / binge / restriction / food cycle is also well documented by research.) Instead, I learned to eat it in moderation. I know, easier said than done. (See: Why You Should Give Up the Restrictive Diet Once and For All)
I got angry when I saw super-qualified influencers sharing the unhealthy treats they ate / drank. I could not help but think they could eat that because they were blessed with amazing genes, but if I ate that, I could never look like they did.
But I could not have been more wrong. Yes, everyone has different genes. Some people can eat what they want and get their abs. But the majority of people who eat pizza, fries and nachos from time to time? They enjoy them in moderation.
What does that mean? Instead of eating the whole thing, however, they have so many bites until they are satisfied and then stop. And they probably fill the rest of their day with whole, nutrient-rich foods.
But here's the conclusion: life is too short to stop baking, if you love it, or to avoid wine night with your friends. Learning to have just one cookie at a time, a few pieces of cheese or two glasses of wine was a decisive step for me.
. 7 Find something that you like about healthy food and sports activities that have nothing to do with weight loss.
Let's be real: no 12-week challenge will change your body in the long run. Sustainable progress takes time. Creating new habits takes time.
This is especially true if you lose less than 15 pounds. You probably can not just cut out soda or alcohol and miraculously lose the extra weight you are wearing. The less body fat you have, the harder it will be to lose it.
That means if you hit the wall with your diet and exercise routine for three months, you will notice some changes and lose a bit of weight, but you will probably be disappointed that you will not reach your goal in that short time achieved. You may also be disappointed if you have gained weight again because you have returned to your old eating habits.
So how can you make sustainable progress?
This might be controversial, but I think visually changes and progress on the way back are a very effective way to actually achieve your goals.
Working on my relationship with food and constantly chasing after PRs and movements that were previously too hard for me (hello, Plyo) pushups), I focused on weight loss. Yes, I wanted to make progress, but I did not think about my weight every day (or what I looked like). It also allowed me to sustainably lose weight, lose fat slowly, and build muscle instead of taking 15 pounds of each quickly.
. 8 Perfection is the enemy of progress.
If you have dieted before, you know the feeling of "I felt". You know, this thing happens when you say no to the muffins at work and then eat five. This leads to the "f * ck it" mentality, where you suspect that you have already messed up your diet, so you can just as well take ham for the rest of the week and start all over again on Monday.
I used to do this all the time. I start my "healthy" diet, screw up, start and stop again. What I did not know was that I did this because I appreciated perfection too much. If I could not follow my diet perfectly, what was the point?
In reality, perfection is simply not required. And urge you to be perfect? This inevitably leads to self-sabotage. I could not call myself perfect by battling diet trip-ups and skipping self-pity training – and doing my very best. The wrong mentality had no place in my brain.
If I had an unplanned cupcake, NBD. Then it was just back to my regular program. A cupcake will not ruin your progress. Make yourself perfect? That will.
. 9 The progression of progress pictures is stupid. You will be glad that you did it later.
You can see in my picture in front of me that I felt awkward to take it. My hips are shifted to the side and my attitude is tentative. But I am * so happy * I have this picture because it shows how far I have come both physically and emotionally. On the right side, my body looks different, but I also stand firm, tall and confident. (See also: The Best Transforms from 2018 Prove That Weight Loss Is Not Everything)
It's difficult to observe changes in one's body over time, and many changes are not reflected in the scale or girth measurements , It took me 20 months to lose 17 pounds. My progress was slow and sustainable. If I had gone alone with Libra, I would definitely have been discouraged.
Photos are not the nuts and bolts of progress, but as you can see, they can be a very useful tool.
10th When you get your "dream body," you will not love yourself more than before.
It is easy to believe that looking at a particular species or seeing a certain number on the scale changes the way you feel about yourself. Unfortunately not. In April 2017, I probably would have given anything to shape the body as my body looks today. But today I still notice my own shortcomings. (See also: Why you lose weight does not make you magically happy.)
If you are not completely satisfied with your body, finding something you love about it can be difficult. But I found that focusing on things my body could do was the quickest way to love what I already had. And so I could go on.
When all else failed, I tried to focus on being grateful. A healthy body that allowed me to wake up every day, train hard a few times a week, and yet easily master all my daily tasks , I remembered that for many this is not the case.
I'm not saying I fully understood self-esteem and body image. I still see photos of myself and think hmm, that's not a good angle for me . I still catch myself occasionally and wish that part would have been leaner or that part would be fuller. In other words, self-love will probably always be a job to me, and that's fine.
My biggest driver? Find something about your body that you can love, and the rest will come with patience and time.