This is the post that started my idea to make a blog calendar. I wanted to make sure there was a day each week where I could talk about issues, random topics, give advice, and that sort of thing. And it was this post that started me on the whole thing. I wanted a place where I could talk about this without getting ridiculed or made to feel bad for my accomplishments.
Over the last year, I’ve lost about 15 pounds, total. Along with that, I have gained a lot of muscle, too. But what’s most important to me is that I feel good. I feel better than I have since I was an actual athlete in high school. That’s what matters to me. But that’s not how other people view this whole situation.
You may have read on Wednesday, during my post about Lauren Conrad’s New Year’s Resolutions, that I don’t believe in other people’s perception of the word diet. To me, dieting is a myth. Diets are controlled eating disorders. Diets are your way of starving yourself. And I don’t believe in that. At all. I believe that if you want to lose weight, or get in better shape, or just be healthier, you have to work for it. And work hard, even though it sucks and it hurts.
I know what you’re thinking. A, diets are hard, too! It’s not easy to cut certain foods out of your daily life! Listen. I get it. I know that it’s difficult for people who love bread to not eat it anymore. But do you know why it’s hard? Because your body is not structured in a way that allows you to just cut certain foods out entirely. That’s not how it works. Oh, you think not eating any meat[i] is going to make you lose a ton of weight? Yeah, it might. But your muscles could also atrophy. And your hair could fall out.
There are some valid reasons for diets. You might have an allergy. Maybe you’re lactose intolerant. Maybe your diet isn’t cutting anything out, but just eating controlled portions, so that you keep yourself from becoming obese, or are trying to prevent Type II Diabetes. Those are doctor prescribed diets. Those are different. And they are not at all what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about fads. I’m talking about shortcuts. I’m talking about cheating your body out of the nutrients that you need to be healthy and to live a happy life.
Juice cleanses. No-carb diets. No-protein diets. Seafood only diets. Supplements you can take to coat your stomach and prevent you from absorbing anything you eat. “Sugar” you can sprinkle on your food to make you feel full faster. I’ve heard of a lot of things. And all of them disgust and repulse me.
Why is it that we feel like we need to diet in the first place? So you can look like the celebrity on the cover of that diet book you’re holding? So you can look like the personal trainers in the magazines, showing you how to do an easy office chair exercise? So you can “look good naked,” as I’ve seen on the cover of so many magazines?[ii] Listen to me. Those people you’re trying to look like? The rich and famous people, the people in magazines? They don’t even look like that! It’s called Photoshop. It’s called airbrushing. It’s not real. No one really looks like that.
Here’s my second wake-up call. Those famous people you’re trying to look like? There’s no way they achieved their bodacious bodies by only not eating carbs. They know what it costs to be rich and famous. And they have personal trainers, dieticians, you name it – all on their payroll! – helping them look like they do. No, they don’t wake up in the morning looking fabulous, just like you.
Let’s change how we see the word “diet.” Let’s change it! Crash diets are eating disorders.[iii] I’ll say it as many times as it is needed. Those are not going to give lasting results, because they are a cop out. They are you not wanting to truly commit yourself to being healthier. So here’s what I think we need to do:
- Learn to love your body.
- See the word “diet” as a way to nourish yourself, not as a dirty word.
- Go outside.
- Make a commitment to being active.
- Set people straight when they put you down.
Now, here’s my story.
I mentioned in my 2013 Running Recap post that the reason I committed to running was because I felt fat. But I also said that it is all relative. When I say that I felt fat, I just mean that I could tell I wasn’t in the shape I used to be in. My clothes didn’t fit right. I was tired all the time. And I went through my day to day life feeling sluggish, sick, and just downright unhealthy.
H doesn’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, but I do. And I made two last year – eat better, and run a 5K. And I can tell you right now, I accomplished both of them, and then some.
Running gave me back the control that I thought I had lost. There are a lot of things in life that are out of our control. I used to watch what I ate meticulously. If I was stressed, I would sometimes stop eating everything other than granola bars and graham crackers. Why? Hell if I know, seriously. But now, I have training schedules that I can control. I have something to work for, something to push myself to accomplish. I signed up for a half marathon after running only two 5K’s, because that’s the control I needed. And I finished that half marathon, feeling more accomplished than I ever have in my life.
The truth is, I did not set out to lose weight. That was a by-product of the better nutrition and the increased physical activity. I remember, when I first was getting hooked on running, H asked me what my end goal was. I didn’t know what he meant, so he explained.
“Are you only doing this to lose weight?” he asked me.
“No,” I replied. “No. I want to feel better. I don’t care what the number is.”
And I have stuck to that. I still don’t care what the number is.[iv] What I care about is how I feel on a daily basis, and that I have something that I can be working toward.
This is my personal commitment to being healthier, one that I am constantly tweaking to suit my current situation:
- Learn to love your body. My body doesn’t have much of a shape. By magazine standards, no clothes should fit me, because I don’t fall into any of the shape categories they ever show.[v] But now, when I look in the mirror, I see muscles in my calves and thighs. I see a flat stomach that has allowed me wear a bikini at the beach without feeling self-conscious about it. I see a narrower face, brighter eyes, shinier hair. I am plain, but that’s okay with me. I do love my body, because I see it as a running machine. I feel good, and that makes me look good in my own eyes.
- See the word “diet” as a way to nourish yourself, not as a dirty word. Yes, my diet has changed in the past year.[vi] I know how to cut vegetables now. I look forward to buying and eating fresh fruits. My favorite food is yogurt.[vii] I know that using venison or moose meat instead of hamburger cuts down on grease. I love eating salads – yes, you heard me. Salads! I will always have my vices – sour cream and cheddar chips, dark chocolate, mac and cheese. But I’ve learned that those need to be eaten in moderation. And I’ve learned that pop tarts are the worst breakfast you could ever eat. Seriously. That is something you can cut out of any diet.
- Go outside. I’ve always liked being outside, and I always felt cooped up when I had to stay in. I always felt like I needed an entire day outside – I needed to go somewhere else to experience nature. You know what? Nature is everywhere! Running has changed this for me, as has welcoming Ole into my life. Trust me. If you are stuck between running on a treadmill and running on a road, go outside.
- Make a commitment to being active. You’ve already heard what I had to do in order to commit. This year is no different – I’m registered for a marathon! Find a way to challenge yourself to get fit. You’ll be thankful later.
- Set people straight when they put you down. People are mean. The worst things I have heard have come from those closest to me. I can’t tell them that I lost weight, because they make it about them. “Oh, you can’t fit into your clothes anymore? Must be nice. Wish I had that problem.” Sarcasm can cut like a knife. So set these people straight. Tell them that you worked really hard to get to where you are, and if they can’t be happy for you, then you don’t need them in your life. Seriously. People like that, relationships like that – they’re poison. They’re trying to get you back down to their level. Don’t let them.
You know, when I started writing this post, I wasn’t sure where it was going to lead. I had a lot of ideas in my head, but there was no real order to them. This… Well, it turned out better than I could have ever planned. I feel like everything I wanted to say is not out in the open.
Just love yourself, everyone. It’s so much easier if you can love who you are, instead of who are trying to be. You don’t have to love everything, but for those things that you want to improve, be ready to work for them. It will make your accomplishments so much sweeter at the end of the day.
[i] I am counting vegetarianism as a diet for my purposes, but please know this. If you believe, ethically, that eating meat is wrong, I support and admire your beliefs. And as long as you get protein in other ways, you are not who I am talking about in this post. I’m talking about the people who stop eating meat for the sole purpose of losing weight, with nothing to back up their convictions other than a load of BS. Yes, I know someone like this. I don’t make these things up.
[ii] I’m looking at you Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health.
[iii] I also want to point out that eating disorders are dangerous, and if you think you have one, you should tell someone. You should get some help. Trust me, I’ve been there. Before I discovered running, I thought the only thing I could control was my eating. I starved myself. So I know what I’m talking about when I tell you that it’s not a good way to live your life.
[iv] I only know that I’ve lost around 15 pounds because everyone insists on weighing you at the doctor’s office.
[v] How are you supposed to buy for your shape when you don’t have a shape?
[vi] Basically, I used to eat mac and cheese and chicken fries three times a week. Now, I only get them when H isn’t home. See? That’s improvement.
[vii] Okay, second favorite. My favorite will always be mac and cheese.