I’ve been reluctant to write about losing weight and getting in shape. I thought people wouldn’t relate. After all, I was never really fat. I was just fat for me. I didn’t have to lose that much weight.
But in all honesty, I was totally depressed about it. I thought about it all the time. Hating the way I looked started to dominate me and everything I did. I wanted to hide all the time.
Then the other day, I randomly posted a selife on Instagram. It’s a photo of me in leather pants with my shirt tucked in. No big deal.
I’ve been working really hard on getting in shape and It had been a while since I could tuck my shirt in and still keep my dignity. And so despite having legs so sore from lunges I could barely sit or stand, I wrote that it was worth it. Just to be able to tuck my shirt in without some asking, “When are you due?” is worth the sore legs, the early mornings, and the time commitment. Oh and let’s not forget about the food, or lack there of. Even that has been worth it.
Any woman who’s been asked that question when she’s not actually pregnant knows there are few other four word sentences that can bring a woman to tears as quickly as, “When are you due?”
The only thing worse is having to answer, “Five years ago.”
So I posted that photo and suddenly started getting direct messages, emails, and texts from friends and readers, each begging, “Please tell me what you’ve been doing. I’m dying over here.” These were people I’d never expect to have body issues. They looked great to me. Their bodies were fine, even good. They looked good in clothing.
But I knew that feeling, when you feel like you’re dying inside because your weight and your body seem unmanageable. And you feel like you’ve lost control. And you just want to hide.
So I decided it’s fitness week here on the blog. And I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing to stop hiding. And what I’ve learned, because I’ve learned a lot. Turns out, my body wasn’t the only thing that needed a makeover.
So here goes.
I’ve always been a relatively thin person. I’ve never been the skinniest girl in the room, but I’ve always been fit and thin. I did fine during my two pregnancies and recovered quickly from both. Then after giving birth to Margaux, I got a terrible case of PPD and had to go on anti depressants for the first time in my life. The doctor warned me, “Some patients do see a small weight increase. “ I should have asked, “How do you define small?”
I went from thin to thick. For a while the tradeoff was fine. I could no longer fit into my jeans without the assistance of cooking oil and a crane, but at least I didn’t want to put my head in the oven. But the minute my brain felt better, I said goodbye to the medicine. Truthfully I couldn’t take the “small” weight gain, which didn’t feel small at all.
I went up and down for a few years. I probably never went up more than 10 pounds, but never went down more than five. You do the math. It doesn’t work in my favor.
And like I said, I was never fat. I just kind of disappeared inside myself. When I get heavier I blend in and become invisible, a recurring theme for me in my life that I desperately try hard not to replicate over and over. Blending in is my happy place. But in the long run, it never makes me happy.
Food-wise I was doing okay, or so I thought. I’m a notorious meal skipper, which sometimes leads me into a hangry binge that has me eating whatever is nearby and edible. I’d never let my kids skip breakfast, but never took the time to properly feed myself. Certainly, I never actually took the time to sit down.
And while I’m a fairly healthy eater, I never thought about how much I was eating. Or, why. And while I’m not a big drinker, I didn’t think about what I was drinking while I was drinking it. Or, why.
The kicker was I was working out everyday, but kept going up and down within my little ten pound, one size up or down, yo-yo. I surrendered and decided that I was probably at an age where my body wasn’t ever going to get any better. I guess this is it, I cried to myself. Unless I want to get plastic surgery.
The truth is, surgery was starting to feel like the only way I’d get rid of my little “are you 6 weeks pregnant?” belly. But, I’m not a lucky person. I’m that unlucky lady who would die getting lipo, killed by a surgeon who forgot to get a new prescription on his glasses. And then my children would spend the rest of their lives explaining that they were orphaned because their mom died trying to get a better body. So surgery was never a viable option for me.
In that time I had to stop running, which had always kept me sane and skinny. So I started spinning hoping to find some version of cardio that would feel as intense as a good run and have the effects as well.
Finally, I saw a light at the end of my back fat. I liked that spin classes were in the dark, perfect for a girl like me who likes to disappear. And I liked that I wasn’t in charge of my workout. As a writer and a mom, everything I do is self-motivated. It’s all on me, but a spin class took the pressure off of me. All I had to do was get myself to the Flywheel studio. After that, the teacher was in charge.
By chance we booked celebrity trainer Lacey Stone on my podcast, the Meltdown Moms Show. I felt particularly heavy, and bloaty, and embarrassed with myself that day. We always take a picture at the end of each show. I dreaded taking that photo.
I listened to what Lacey said to me as if her advice was specific to me. Her thoughts on diet and exercise focused on fitness and strength, not sizes or being thin. Her suggestions about eating were really simple. There was no calorie counting or foods that were off limits. There was just portion control. I liked that she focused on what I could do, not what I couldn’t.
So what did she say?
Portion control. It’s all about portion control.
What does that mean?
Four times a day, eat:
A portion of protein, which should fit in the palm of your hand.
A portion of carbohydrates, which is a quarter cup.
Eat all the vegetables you want.
Alcohol? Avoid it while you’re trying to lose weight.
What if you’re hungry?
You’re going to be hungry. But don’t panic, you’re going to eat again in two hours. You’ll live, but your body has to get used to smaller portions.
Joking, I asked about chips. Because, I love them. Where are the chips? Where are the snacks? Where is the salt? How can I break up with salt? I really wasn’t joking at all.
You can imagine the answer. If you want to change your body and not just temporarily lose weight. there is, in general, no chips.
Just to be clear, it’s not like I was eating a ton of this stuff, but I was the type of person who would skip a meal if I wanted to eat junk. Suddenly my mediocre body started to make sense. My current eating plan was what wasn’t making sense.
I don’t remember deciding to make a change. I just remember waking up the day after the podcast feeling determined. I looked at the palm of my hand, lamented not being born with bigger hands, and started to think about how much I was eating.
I think it was the simplicity of what she said that clicked for me. I didn’t have to count calories or avoid entire food groups. I just had to look at the palm of my hand.
I kept up my same workout regime, but pounds started to shed. Suddenly, I felt exercise was moving me forward rather than just keeping me in the same place. My pants started to get looser and my “are you 6-weeks pregnant?” bump started to disappear.
Justin noticed the changes in me almost immediately and was totally supportive of the extra time and extra money I was using to get in shape. He also, very kindly, never commented on the pounds I had put on. Sure he liked seeing me drop the weight, but was more enthusiastic about me being happier.
I was hungry a lot, but it was manageable. (I still am.) What’s two hours to wait? It wasn’t the end of the world. But without alcohol, sugar, and stress snacks, I was left to feel all the feels in my world. I was un-medicated and hungry. My poor children!
But, eating less made me realize that I had been eating so much more than I thought. And it made me notice the times I overate. I had to look at the reasons. It was mostly mindless, stress-related, or hey the kid’s chicken nuggets shouldn’t go to waste so I’ll finish them, eating. Food had become like the child’s lovey I needed to outgrow.
I started an intense boot camp with Lacey Stone that combined two high intensity gym workouts with 3-4 spin workouts per week, with a serious case of team support. I started to see the results I had desperately craved for so many years. And I realized that I didn’t need plastic surgery. I could find life after running. And eating lean and clean wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was totally do-able.
But most importantly, this was the first time, maybe in my entire life, that I wasn’t cheating on myself. I had made a commitment and kept it. I didn’t eat what I wasn’t supposed to. I didn’t drink what I wasn’t supposed to. I didn’t miss a workout when I said I’d be there. I showed up for myself. And I was rewarded with jeans a size smaller. I couldn’t help but notice all the other places in my life where I had been cheating on myself. I’ll get to those next.
Getting in shape is hard because it’s really not about the food, or the exercise. It’s about showing up for yourself. It’s about not cheating yourself. It’s about not being mediocre. It’s about admitting you can, and deserve to be, excellent. And it’s about not hiding, even if nobody noticed you disappeared.
My body’s not perfect. It may never be. I’m not a kid anymore and my metabolism reminds me each and every day. Most people I know haven’t noticed I lost weight. Maybe that means they didn’t notice I gained some, or maybe they were just being polite.
So if you’re hiding, hate being in photos, and feel like mediocre is as good as it gets, just know that change is entirely possible. It just might not be your body that needs to change.
Here’s What I Learned About Dieting:
No grown up needs a chicken nugget.
I don’t need to finish my children’s food.
I can’t be trusted around certain foods.
So I don’t buy foods that are hard for me to resist. Out of sight out of my mind. My family can live without anything I can live without.
Getting in shape is a family affair.
If you’re a mom trying to get in shape, you need your family and friends on board. Sometimes you’re not going to drink at a girl’s night out. Sometimes you’re not going to join in for family pizza night. The last thing you need is your friends or spouse saying, “Come on, can’t you just have a little?” Justin takes the kids to school on the mornings I have boot camp. Even ours is a family affair, or it won’t work.
You can do anything when you stop cheating on yourself.
Personal, professional, diet, and exercise. Anything is possible if you just keep your word to yourself.
Not everyone in your life wants you to achieve your goals.
Notice when your friend says, “Working out again?!” Or when your spouse says, “Can’t you just have the fries?” Tell the them you are trying to do something that’s hard and you need them. Require them to support you.
Being in shape is a relentless, exhausting, expensive, commitment that doesn’t get easier. So is hiding and hating yourself. Choose the first one. At least you’ll look good in a swimsuit.
There is no better sex buzzkill than hating your body.
But you probably already knew that.
After a certain age it’s better to be strong than thin. And yes, it’s nice to be both.
So what next for me? Well, more of the same I suppose. That means 2 gym workouts a week and 3-4 spin classes a week. That means watching what I eat and laying off the booze (but not completely.) That means sleeping enough and making time for myself. I’m even going to eat breakfast. What does it mean for you?
If you’re not following along on Instagram, come on over. I’ll post weekly progress reports on what I’m doing to keep up the progress.
*Don’t forget to hit LIKE and SHARE. Your friends will thank you and so will I.