We’ve all been there, suddenly the reflection in my dorm room mirror wasn’t what it used to be. Somehow, unbeknownst to me, I’ve packed on some extra “pudge” on my stomach, ass (not so upset about this one), thighs, and even my face. We’ve all heard of the Freshman 15, but there’s no way in hell I ever thought that would apply to me. After all, I’ve always been extremely skinny. Without even worrying, I could eat anything and everything I wanted, and couldn’t put on a single pound if I tried. This harsh reality seemed to come and smack me straight in the face. “Now you know how everyone else feels you privileged bitch.” Ouch. I mean I shouldn’t be surprised really. Between the college DR food, excessive nonstop drinking followed by Del Taco, and other late-night fast food cravings, I wasn’t exactly taking the best care of myself. Since leaving Wisconsin and high school behind, I essentially abandoned all types of physical activity, which for me was dance. No more dance classes to attend, or after school dance team practices to hold me accountable. Hell, I didn’t even have my grandmother here to cook for me anymore.
It’s funny how your sober mind tries so adamantly to protect that sensitive ego of ours. I found myself thinking things along the lines of “well you’re still in better shape than the majority of people”, “you haven’t gained that much weight”, “what’s an extra 10-15 pounds?”, “you’re being too hard on yourself.” We’ve all done this sort of bargaining with ourselves in order to ease our discomfort with any given situation. Except I was aware of this inner dialogue, these commiserating attempts to save my self-esteem. It’s human nature, but my self-aware being knew my sober mind would play these silly games to justify my overindulgent behavior, so I wrote myself a drunk note. That’s right, after one of my normal drunken benders, I came home, looked in the mirror, and decided It was time to get real with myself. The kind of real that only 5 shots of vodka, 3 “Adios Motherfuckers”, and Roberto’s could muster. The note to myself was about as blunt as it could get (wouldn’t expect anything less) and essentially said something along the lines of “get your fucking shit together you hot mess.” Unlike many people I can laugh at myself and don’t take things too seriously, so upon reading this back I knew that drunk me had some solid points. From that point on I was honest with myself about the situation (I’ve gained some weight and I’m not happy about it), the first step is admitting that action needs to be taken. Before any action is to take place, we need to be very honest with ourselves about the situations we’re in.
The human brain is very smart, we can find excuses to justify essentially anything and everything that goes awry in our lives, and if we don’t take a second to get very real with ourselves, we will slip even farther down unhealthy/unproductive paths. Truth hurts, but denial and persistence of negative behavior patterns are far more destructive and difficult to escape from. I wish I could tell you that from that day on I started a workout regime and diet alterations that instantly worked and changed my life forever, but life is messy and that’s simply unrealistic. It took years to finally stay consistent and get my body where I wanted it to be. Like many people, I struggled with confidence and the horrible habit of comparing my body to others. I struggled with my cravings for the unhealthy food that I was so accustomed to consuming, which knowingly was destroying my body and self-image. Why couldn’t I have my cake and eat it too?! I’m happy to say it’s been 7 years now since the day I wrote myself that drunken letter as a wake-up call to the denial I’d been living in, and now not only am I at what was back then my “ideal weight”, but I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. The best part? I don’t track my calories, I hardly ever weigh myself on a scale, and I enjoy working out. It took years to get to this point, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and now I’d like to help motivate you to do the same. Here’s some tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years that have helped me to stay consistent on my journey to a body I love and am proud of.
Your diet is just as important, if not MORE important than exercise when it comes to losing weight.
I’ve watched so many people, including my boyfriend’s mother think, “oh, if I just workout, I can still eat whatever the fuck I want.” WRONG. You can (for the most part) eat whatever you want while working out, only IF you’re trying to stay the same weight, NOT if you’re trying to lose it. What many people don’t realize is that its easier to lose weight simply by changing your diet than from just working out. Weird, I know. Kind of annoying, isn’t it. However, the math adds up, you need to burn more calories than you consume in order to lose weight. Even practicing portion control and eating less of what you are already consuming can be helpful. Make sure you’re also drinking enough water. Not only is staying hydrated required for maintaining your body’s homeostatic levels, it will also help you eat less and feel “full” longer.
Alter your diet in small steps or doses.
Many people fail at things because they go from one extreme to the other. For example, if you go from eating fast food four times a week, getting drunk three nights out of the week, and the rest of the time eating ramen noodles, to a very strict diet consisting of only water, salad, and protein shakes, you’re going to burn out sooner rather than later, it’s that simple. It’s not realistic, and while I wish drastic changes were this easy to simply master, that’s not the reality. What is more realistic is taking smaller steps towards a positive diet change. For example, you may say to yourself since you want to lose weight that you’ll eliminate all sugary or unhealthy beverages and replace them with water. Now instead of changing essentially everything about your diet, you start tweaking it to slowly, but surely become better over time. Once you’ve successfully mastered eliminating something unhealthy for you, move onto the next thing, “from now on, I’ll only eat fast food once a week instead of four or five times.” Eventually you can drop that down to maybe only having fast food once a month. You get the gist. These smaller tasks make it easier for you to stay consistent and with completing each step successfully, you’re building up your self-esteem by showing yourself that you can make lasting changes to your diet.
If getting to the gym or your workout is a struggle, start your day off with it.
Like starting anything in life, the beginning is often the hardest. Making changes to bad habits is never easy, and unfortunately you will have that internal struggle of laziness you want to give in to, and the dream body you desire will slowly slip out of your grasp. I hear many people say that they find themselves so tired after working their jobs all day that they simply CANNOT motivate themselves to go to the gym. I have a simple solution that you’re probably not going to like. Wake up early and go to the gym before you go to work. I can already hear your protests now, “but I already have to get up too early!”, “I’m not a morning person”, “then I’ll have to go to bed even earlier.” Trust me, I was never inherently a morning person either, but anytime I’ve started my day with a workout its only boosted my energy levels for the rest of the day. Plus, you get the hardest thing out of the way from the get-go. Our brains get better at rationalizing procrastination as the day goes on, by starting with your workout you can’t talk yourself out of it.
Find a workout buddy/partner who also wants to get in shape.
We’re social creatures and having someone else there to help hold you accountable will help both of you to stay on track and reach your goals. I can go on and on about why this is a good idea, some friends may be more knowledgeable about certain types of workouts and can therefore guide your noob ass. My boyfriend did this for me when I first started lifting at the gym. I’d always been a dancer, not someone who lifts weights, which to me seemed like such a guy activity. He showed me the ropes and now I’m confident enough to walk into any gym now and know exactly what to do. This technique also helped me when I was new to my Pilates studio, I decided to try it out with another girlfriend who wanted to lose some weight, so we signed up for the trial 30 days together. Since then, she’s moved to a different side of town and decided to not extend her membership, but I did and can’t imagine not going to these classes regularly.
Buy some cute workout clothes/gear to help motivate you.
Just like buying anything new, you cannot wait to go out and show off. The same applies to workout clothes! Go treat yourself to some cute new outfits and it will give you another reason to finally hit the gym. Same with supplies, you best believe once I bought my new shiny yoga mat, I wanted more than anything to get out there and use it. Other things you can purchase that will help motivate you are devices that track your workouts, like a Fitbit or an Apple Watch. I personally started with a Fitbit and after I wore that religiously for a few years, I decided it was worth the upgrade to go out and purchase my Apple Watch. If you told me that I’d be the person to wear a watch LITERALLY 24/7, besides when I shower (only because I need to charge it), I’d have never believed you. My Apple watch tracks my heartrate, calories burned, steps taken, hours stood, etc. To an information junky like myself, I’m utterly obsessed. Some investments are well worth it. I’m also an extremely competitive person and the Apple watch lets you have weekly competitions with your friends, and what could possibly be more motivating than that?
Track your progress via measurements, photos, & fitness apps.
It’s hard to see incremental changes within yourself since we see ourselves every day. The best way to combat this is to take photos and measurements of your starting point and for the months to come, so you can compare the photos and visually see the changes happening to your physique. A regular scale can tell you your weight, but ideally, you’ll want a BMI scale to tell you how much fat and muscle you have too. If you don’t have a BMI scale, some gyms have them and will let you use it for a small charge, my old gym cost $5. I’d also take all the measurements needed to order clothes online, your bust, waist, & hips. This is just one more way to track your losses, and I recommend doing all of these things because just like when you gained weight, losing it is gradual and I don’t want you to lose your drive because the process will seem to move slow. Just remember that gaining weight is gradual as well. We slowly add the pounds on justifying the additional pounds until one day we look in the mirror blown away that we’ve let ourselves get to this point. I know this all sounds obvious, but I didn’t take pictures or measurements before I started to get my act together and I wish I had. Nothing is more motivating than being able to see how much progress you’ve made. Plus, its addicting! Once you can see how far you’ve come, its easy to want to keep pushing yourself. Another blessing of the 21st century is our access to apps like MyFitnessPal that are calorie counters and fitness trackers wrapped all into one, personalized and geared towards your specific targets.
While these tips and tricks are hopefully useful in helping you achieve your goals, please be patient with yourself. There will be setbacks, you will be tested, you will fumble along the way, we are human after all and breaking and changing habits are NEVER an easy thing to do. If they were, we’d all be extremely fit, lavishly wealthy, and wise intellects with perfect personal lives. That’s obviously not the world we live in, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to achieve any of those things. Believe in yourself, we’re all incredibly capable, more capable than we give ourselves credit for. Just know that the biggest hurdle to get over in achieving the body you want is yourself, you will constantly have excuses for why you can’t make it to the gym or your workout class, but remind yourself “those who truly want something will find a way, and those who don’t will find an excuse” it’s your decision which category you fall into.