Losing Weight Really WON’T Make You Happy

As I sat down to catch up on my Internet reading this morning before I headed to the gym, a Women’s Health article caught my eye. Why Losing Weight Won’t Make You Happy. Now, as someone who has lost somewhere in the 70-80 pound range over the course of the last 3-4 years, and as someone who is getting her degree in exercise science, weight loss articles always catch my eye. Even more so the ones that talk a bit more about the psychological side.

After high school and into my early twenties, I gained a considerable amount of weight. I couldn’t tell you how much because after weighing in at 210 for a softball physical my sophomore year, I was too scared to step on the scale. I knew I was big and you know what? I was ok with it. I was happy with myself and my body. Truly happy. I didn’t know what it was like to beat myself up over a pound or two. I had never been in that mindset, nobody have ever “taught” me to hate the way I look. I didn’t worry about what I was eating when I was out with friends, I didn’t try to calculate calories of mixed drinks in my head when we went to the bar. Why? Because it didn’t matter. I was having fun and enjoying my life.

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As I began losing weight and becoming a healthier person, I never thought “if I just lose X pounds, I’ll be happier.” That never crossed my mind. But to many, it does. We equate being thin with being happy. For me, losing weight came with the added stresses of being terrified to gain back a pound or two and feel like I had failed OTHER PEOPLE. When you start hearing all the time what an inspiration you are, it’s flattering and wonderful and dammit, it is stressful. All of a sudden you don’t feel like you’re doing it for you, you’re doing it not to let down those other people who are following in your footsteps.

I developed my own body issues that had never been there before. Why won’t this roll of fat go away, why don’t I look as toned today? I forgot how to love my body. To be honest, I don’t know if that will ever come back. I don’t know what I look like in a mirror. What’s mean by that is not a day goes by that I don’t look in the mirror and see that 210+ pound girl looking back at me. You go for so long seeing that, it just never goes away. I see little changes (my arms, my face) but not overall. Some days I am just a number on the scale.

I’m not sure I will ever see myself as others do or that I will ever be “happy” with my body. Having been in the “improvement” mindset for so long, how do you get out of it? How do you reach a maintenance phase, where you stop trying to lose weight, gain muscle? There’s always something that can be better.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely happy I embarked on this journey and it makes me so proud to say that I have inspired others. But if I could tell those people ONE thing, just one, it would be PLEASE do not think this is going to solve all your problems because it WON’T. You will be in for so much heartache if you think that. You are so much more than a number on a scale.

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What I mean by that is that there are reasons you are the way you are, reasons you may eat too much or nit pick at your body and if you don’t deal with those reasons in your HEAD first, losing weight won’t fix that. I think just about anyone that embarked on a healthier lifestyle journey will tell you that. You have to love yourself first so you can appreciate your own journey and your own changes for being the amazing, positive things that they are.

Don’t look at your journey as punishment for allowing your body to become something you don’t like. Embrace your journey. Embrace the changes and allow it to be an opportunity to find things you love about yourself, allow it to help you discover yourself. See the positives, the strengths in yourself you never knew existed. Discover a world you never knew existed, full of possibilities and things you never dreamed that YOU are capable of doing. Let that be your journey, not just a journey of checking off pounds lost. THAT is how losing weight can make you happy.

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Overtraining: when to say when

If you’re like me, you’re addicted to training. You think more is better and more than more is even better than better. Feel me? If I can run three miles today, then maybe I should run five. Or six. Or maybe I should do a long run in the morning and speed work at night. It’s a slippery slope…

Training for my half marathon, I ran just about every single day for two months. And when I say ran, I mean I RAN minimum three miles a day and did strength training three days a week. This probably explains why I’m a little burned out at this point.

I hate admitting I can’t do something. I know there’s people out there who run twice as much as I do every day. They’ve also probably been running for YEARS. Years upon years…upon years. I have been consistently running for under six months. So, overdoing it? Yeah. Maybe.

I’m an exercise science major. I am EXTREMELY familiar with this bell curve:

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Oh, diminished returns. There is a point where you WILL stop getting better. I see my run times stop improving, my appetite go away, and a whole host of other issues pop up. Sometimes the strongest thing you can do in your training is ADMIT you are overdoing it and slow down.

The last thing you want is to be a slug on race day. Dead legs aren’t fun during training and they sure as hell aren’t fun when you’re trying to set a PR. All that you have gained through training will not go away in a day. Or two days. Take that rest day. Come back feeling refreshed and more focused.

And when you hear me complain that my legs are dead and I cannot function, feel free to ask when my last rest day was and refer me to this blog post.

Goal Setting

Goals. They should be challenging, yet attainable and come with a time frame for completion.

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At the start of every month, I set goals. They can be fitness related or otherwise. They’re just things that I feel I would like to consciously work harder on for the next 30 days. At the end of the month, I take some time to look back on them. Did I meet my goals? Did I really try on the ones I failed to meet?

You see, there’s nothing wrong with failing to meet a goal if you really tried. I didn’t come anywhere near reaching my 115 mile goal for June. I finished with 66. And I have accepted my failure. It wasn’t for lack of trying. It was a gross underestimation on my part of exactly how busy I would be with work and school for this month. My goal was high when I set it and I knew that. It also had to do with a change in training.

Halfway through the month, I decided to set my sights in an August triathlon. Between that and other priorities, 115 miles was out of reach. But I tried. To the best of my ability. So it’s on to July. Time for new goals!

Do you set goals each month? How do you decide what to work towards? What are your July goals?

“You better not lose any more weight!”

Towards the end of 2010, I started losing weight. I was going through a hard time and it just started falling off. I couldn’t tell you how heavy I was because I stopped weighing myself after high school. I’m sure I gained 20-40 pounds between 2005-2010. If I had my yearbook here in MO with me, I’d dig out that picture where I was voted most likely to become a bouncer (side note: I’m not one) and put that next to a picture of me in the early fall of 2010.

I divide my weight loss into two phases. The first was up until the end of 2011 before I moved. That’s probably where I lost the bulk of my weight. I developed those eating habits and the desire to exercise every day. It’s also when I made the choice to concentrate in finishing my associates degree so I could transfer to get my bachelors in the health field. Thankfully, I met Boyfriend at the same time I was planning on transferring and moving anyway. So here I am, in Springfield, MO. Studying exercise science and still with the same awesome guy.

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Honestly, it was the best choice I could’ve made. I’m happy, I love my school and I’ve met great people here. It was NOT the best choice for my weight though. At least up until recently. They say love makes you gain weight. FOR. SURE. I gained back 15 pounds over the course of the first year. I knew I wasn’t eating well and that I wasn’t exercising like I should. But it was stressful and I was adjusting. Sue me.

At the start of the year, I found running and running challenges. For three months I ran nearly every day. These last 25 pounds have come off FAST. I’m more toned than I’ve ever been and for the most part, I’ve never felt better about my body. That last bit is for another blog at another time.

To the point…Lately I’ve started hearing from people that I should stop losing weight and that I look great. Couldn’t they just say I look great? What business is it of anyone’s to tell me to stop? Let me be clear. I am NOWHERE near being underweight. I’m on the high end of average. I eat very well on most days. I’m losing weight at an acceptable pace. I’m going to school for this stuff! I know what I’m doing. I help others do this. I don’t sit here and analyze every little thing I eat. Some nights I go eat a greasy burger and fries. And I don’t beat myself up about it.

What I’m trying to say is that if you are ignorant of what someone’s fitness goals are or what their measurements are, you should keep your thoughts to yourself. Weight loss should be happy and exciting! After all, you’re feeling great physically and mentally and you get to buy new clothes (best part, obviously!) Unless someone is looking like they are LEGITIMATELY in need of help and you know them on a level where you can say something, keep your thoughts to yourself.

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