I started yo-yo dieting when I was 14 years old, and by age 18 I thought I knew everything there was to know about diet and exercise. I followed rules like Avoid junk food and exercise as much as you can. Despite sticking to these "rules," I couldn't seem to lose the extra 40 pounds on my body. Not only could I not lose it, I simply wasn't making any weight-loss progress at all.
I thought the answer was a lot of exercise. So I religiously participated in intense classes, from spin to kickboxing to ice hockey — in the hopes that I would burn more fat. Instead, what happened was that I got stronger and had more stamina, but my body size was getting bigger.
Every time I got on the scale I was devastated to see that the number kept creeping up. I told myself that I just needed to exercise more to see the results I wanted.
In hindsight, I now know that if you train like a hockey player, you will certainly grow into one. Today, I'm an integrative health coach and I've figured out what I was doing to hinder my progress. I want to share with you what I changed in the hopes that you, too, will be on the path to your ideal health.
1. I planned my exercise according to my body goal.
It's pretty common advice that you have to find the exercise that "works for you," but I misinterpreted this advice. I used to pick exercise based on my personality — I am "type A" and I had a lot of energy, so I opted for vigorous courses (like spin class and kickboxing) to burn as many calories as possible. My mindset was that you "get out what you put in."
Instead, I realize now that I should've picked the exercise routine according to my overall goal. If you want to have a ballerina body, but you're doing P90X, then can you really expect the training to give you the body that you want?
By gaining stamina and more weight, my body was actually doing exactly what I had been training it to do — but the result was not in line with what I had wanted. And, when you feel like you are doing everything you can to make progress for yourself, it is hard to step back and analyze what you might be doing wrong.
It wasn't until I started doing more relaxing forms of exercise such as walking and stretching that I lost 40 pounds. From a psychological perspective, it was tough at first to grasp that less could be more, but seeing the results, and also feeling less stressed, both physically and emotionally, was the proof I needed to be less controlling.
2. I set eating habits that worked for me.
Losing 40 pounds did require changing my diet, but adopting a healthier lifestyle started when I stopped forcing the stress of overtraining onto myself. I realized that the workouts I was doing were making me feel ravenous, and although I was eating healthy and avoiding junk food, I was eating large quantities.
By reducing my workouts, I started to notice that my body did not need nearly as much food as I had been eating. I was able to reduce my portion sizes without feeling deprived, simply because I had no intense workouts to fuel for.
I realized that since I didn't feel as physically tired from all of the exercise, I also had fewer cravings for caffeine and sugar, which paved the way for much healthier eating habits in general.
My body started to crave more of a plant-based diet so I felt open to exploring holistic concepts like macrobiotics. And now, I am able to eat what I want — that includes the foods I grew up enjoying, along with all the wonderful health foods I learned to love along the way, and not have any weight issues.
3. There's more to fitness than killer workouts.
It wasn't until I started exercising less and doing more therapeutic forms of exercise, like just walking and stretching, that my body started to finally slim down into the shape that I had always wanted.
When I was at my highest weight, I had been doing intense workouts for 60 to 90 minutes daily. But now, at my ideal weight and body shape, I do exercises like walking, stretching, and yoga, combined with muscle training, using my own body weight, for 45 to 60 minutes per day, three to four times per week.
I am 26 years old and despite my history of yo-yo dieting, I have maintained my weight for the last six years without hassle.
I reached my ideal body by finding ways to be kind to myself by honoring how I feel and truly listening to what I crave. These were the first steps towards creating my own virtuous circle, and I encourage you to reflect on whether your own habits are in line with your goals.
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