Fitness

What I Did Differently

Growing up, I never was out of shape. I had played sports all throughout my childhood, and high school was no different. I was a part of the swimming and water polo team that had me practicing two times a day, 6 days a week. As a result, I always was incredibly lean (although I never thought so but different story for different day).

When I went away to college, I had to find a different outlet for activity. It wasn’t out of obligation; it just seemed natural after spending my entire life participating in sports. The most obvious answer was frequenting the gym, and thus my personal fitness journey began.

While I started to go to the gym at 18 years old 4-5 days a week, I only got increasingly more and more out of shape as the years went by. I kept putting on weight that eventually staggered out at a constant 180-185 pounds, and I was the furthest thing from healthy. There were so many factors as to WHY I never achieved the results I desired year after year. I could probably write a whole book about it. But in 2018, (5 years in the making) I managed to change the script and FINALLY reach my goals. Here is what I did differently:

I cut out fast food for 6 weeks.

  • Neither my boyfriend nor I are religious people, but we decided to give up fast food for Lent. I thought this was an IMPOSSIBLE task. No French fries for 6 weeks? What would I eat when I was traveling? What would I eat when I needed dinner in a pinch? What would I eat when I was feeling sorry for myself?
  • Nonetheless, we committed to it. Along the way, I ended up challenging myself to not buy anything from the grocery store that wasn’t on my list (looking at you baked goods, candy, and chips) as an added Lent reservation, in an attempt to save money as well as keep temptations out of my house.
  • At the end of the 6 weeks, I had ended up eating it twice (while I was traveling) but looking back I definitely could’ve found alternative meals. Giving it up for 6 weeks seemed completely out of reach in the beginning, but it ended up being one of the best commitments for my journey (and has saved me lots of dinero). I hardly EVER want to eat fast food now. I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I’ve eaten it since March. It changed my outlook on how I want to fuel myself, and I challenge you to try it yourself. This means no McDonald’s, Domino’s/Pizza Hut/Papa John’s, Chipotle, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Chic-fil-A, Burger King, Popeye’s, KFC, Dairy Queen, or local fast food joints.

I quit my job and moved.

  • Not that this is the end all, be all, but I was miserable. I cried everyday. I essentially was sitting the entire day, when I wasn’t sitting I was sleeping. I hated the commute. I would go home only to binge eat and watch TV to wallow in my self-pity. The lack of physical activity and zero regard to nutrition packed on the LBs and it was obvious.
  • The opportunity arose to move, and I ultimately decided to go for it. I had a choice to either make the current situation work or to change it. I opted to change it.
  • Quitting my job and moving didn’t provide me undulated relief. I still struggled, still wasn’t happy, and still didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Watched too much TV, drowned my sorrows in too much liquor every weekend, avoided facing life. I even sprained my knee the night of my birthday, which threw a wrench in my plans to start killing the gym game. I was decommissioned for over a month.
  • The end of April fast approached and my knee recovered as I settled into a new state. I was holding onto all the weight I gained from my job and still was dissatisfied with my life, but I was now in a position to reset my routine. Completely change my lifestyle. Reflect on who I was and what I wanted. I signed up for a gym and decided that I was going to take it seriously this time.
  • Some people spend years trying to unsuccessfully quit smoking, only to one day decide enough is enough and stick with it. I had reached my “enough is enough” moment. Quitting my job and moving was a factory reset to my life that I ABSOLUTELY needed.
  • Not saying that you have to quit your job or move if you are miserable, but start questioning it. What could you do differently? How could you make the situation better? What do you value most in life? Are you staying true to that? See what answers you come up with. How can you factory reset your life?

I started following a program.

  • My workouts evolved throughout my five years of the gym. It started out as a collection of every leg workout, upper body workout, and ab workout that I could find on Pinterest. I would do them all in a row, with no structure, as fast as I could before I completed 3 miles on the elliptical.
  • Then I moved onto lifting, braving the weight room after a year or so of fearing it. I had a friend show me the ropes of basic movements and provide me a weeklong split that I did week after week, month after month. After a year or two of this, I started going to the gym with no set plan of what lifts or weights to be hitting. I would essentially just flow with whatever equipment was unoccupied.
  • What do these all have in common? I never had a plan (and I never saw results). It didn’t matter how many times a week I worked out or how many hours I stayed. There was no structure. No progressive overload. No blueprint of what my goals were and how I was going to reach them.
  • April 2018, I started creating workouts for myself. I wrote down what my goals were and utilized that information to pick what exercises, sets, and reps to preform each week. I started logging all of the weights I used, how they felt, and tips for next time. I would utilize this information when it came time to make the next week’s program. 6 months of this, I lost 20 pounds. I went from being able to do 0 pull-ups to repping out 3 sets of 4, 0 push-ups to over 30. My hip thrust working sets went from 225 to 365. When I had structure, something to grow off of, I did just that. It has been an absolute game changer.

I ACTUALLY tracked my macros.

  • I started tracking my macros half way through my journey, but I still didn’t see any results. Here’s why:
    1. I never stuck with it. I would do it for a week or two, stop for a week, and then start again.
    2. I didn’t track on the weekends
    3. I left out oils, condiments, and alcoholic beverages
    4. If I ended the day on top of my macro goals, I would reward myself with food (putting me into a surplus)
    5. I pushed how “flexible” my diet could be, prioritizing non-nutritious foods over nutritious foods.
  • April 2018, I was dedicated to taking it seriously.
  • I did it week after week, and if there was a day that I didn’t do it, I was mindful of using the same serving sizes.
  • I stopped going crazy on the weekends. No more binge eating or excessive drinking. I changed my lifestyle to better align with my goals. I would still stay up with friends or family, but would opt for water and thus no drunk eating occurred.
  • I started accounting for my cooking oils, overestimating when I wasn’t sure to play it safe. I opted for low-cal dipping sauces when applicable, or none at all. I started drinking vodka waters and tequila shots instead of beers and malt beverages.
  • I planned ahead of time to have a treat at the end of each night, whether it was a bagel, cereal, cookies, or ice cream. I allowed 300 calories each day for this, that way it fit into my goals.
  • I started WANTING to eat nutritious foods- fruits, vegetables, and quality protein options- and loosely followed the 80/20 rule (80% nutritious foods, 20% less nutritious foods).
  • After months of consistently tracking, I have learned what appropriate serving size of foods look like, how large of a meal I prefer eating, how frequently I prefer to eat, and how I can work “fun” foods in throughout the day. I also learned random facts, like sweet potatoes are full of Vitamin A, cereal is a source of iron, and berries have more Vitamin C than an orange.
    • Disclaimer: I stopped tracking macros 4 months into this go around as (and I continued to lose weight) I personally do not find this to be sustainable way of living 24/7, 365 BUT! I one million percent recommend this to anyone who is starting out. Although I’ve stopped tracking, I still utilize what I’ve learned EVERYDAY to continue eating appropriate serving sizes.

I started questioning my thoughts before making decisions.

  • You may think you want Goldfish or Cheez-its, but remember how they made you feel last time? You felt sick for hours. You’re better off having a yogurt instead. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Okay, you don’t want to go to the gym, what are going to do with that time instead? Is it more important? More productive? A better priority? No? Then go to the gym (99.9% of the time it’s no, so go to the gym.)
  • Yeah you feel the afternoon slug, and yeah you could take a nap, but when have you ever felt good after taking a 15-minute nap? Never. You’re better off going for a run, a walk outside, or just getting up to drink some water. It’ll pass.
  • Having inner-dialogue and a script with myself has saved me HUNDREDS of times.

Miscellaneous…

  • I challenged myself to watch less TV
    1. Watching TV was a scapegoat for me. I was running away from my priorities, responsibilities, and used it as an outlet to not think. It was a mindless activity
    2. I wanted to be more productive and I wanted to be a better version of myself, and watching TV wasn’t adding to that. It became less of a priority so I could have more time spent on what truly matters.
    3. I still watch my go-to shows, but I don’t feel inclined to add any new ones to the line up
  • I challenged myself to learn more about what I enjoy and take note of what I found
    1. I now have a better understanding of what makes me happy and who I am as a person. Being in tune with my true desires makes it easier to make decisions that align with my goals.
  • I made movement a priority
    1. Asked myself, “How am I going to move today?”
    2. Riding my bike, going for a walk, being on my feet in the kitchen while baking, all these activities made a huge difference in reaching my goals
    3. There is more to life than going to the gym and eating salads. I was determined to prioritize activities I already loved doing into my healthy lifestyle.

 

While quitting your job and moving isn’t an ideal or even desirable notion for most people, I do think there’s beneficial takeaway from even slight attempts at the changes I made. This isn’t to say that you must do exactly as I did, but maybe they’ll ignite some inspiration and shed some light where you haven’t looked before. Small lifestyle changes have a big impact in the long run and more goes into reaching your fitness goals than showing up to the gym. What can you do differently?

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