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In defense of the excuse

If we were to cut to the heart of all the things it takes to lose weight, we would find that being honest with yourself is the absolute most important thing you can do. 

For every way of eating and exercising there has been at least one successful person.  For every way of eating and exercising there has been at least one unsuccessful person.  In the end it is not about finding the Holy Grail of weight loss plans, it’s about adherence.   Adherence is this magical combination of doing something that you believe in, doing something that’s satisfying, and simply sticking to it. 

Finding that one thing that suddenly clicks with you is awesome!

What if you never find it?

Dieting can be extremely stressful.  There are so many factors that make it a struggle, from environmental to physiological to psychological.  Almost nobody enjoys being hungry or missing out on the good stuff in life.  Weight loss is not easy and everyone trying to make it seem that way makes things more frustrating.  How many years of your life are you going to spend stressed out trying to lose weight?

I’m here to support people deciding that maybe today isn’t the day.  If dieting has made your life miserable and you’ve made no progress it’s time to consider other options.  Yes, I’m saying maybe some people should quit.  Quit counting calories, quit restrictive eating, quit doing exercises to earn or make up for food.

Hear me out.

If you are miserable from trying to follow diets you are going to burn out on every single plan no matter how fact based and proven it is.  Focus on happiness and focus on honesty (with yourself) about your habits.  Start thinking about health as an addition equation instead of a subtraction one.  Add in exercise you enjoy.  Add in fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.  Add in a specific treat weekly or daily.  Stop making it about weight and start making it about positive habits that you enjoy.

In short, I am all for “staying fat”.  Taking the focus off of weight loss and putting it on healthy habits (mental and physical) is going to help some people actually make changes.  Stop chasing the perfect plan and be honest with yourself that another diet isn’t what you need.

Five years!

It is my five year anniversary on MyFitnessPal! 

In this time I have lost weight, gained muscle, run some races, competed in a bodybuilding competition, competed in a powerlifting meet, bulked, and now I'm cutting again.  During this time I've also done a lot of things wrong and just enough things right to make it work.  I've tried most of the fad diets, taken dieting to all sorts of extremes and at times I have had a narrow minded approach to this.  I am not even close to an expert, but I wanted to share a few things I have learned along the way.

 

  1. Don’t sweat the petty stuff.  Worrying about meal timing, exact macros, perfect micros or supplements is really only important to competitive athletes, professionals, and some medical conditions.  Figure out how to make it sustainable and forget the crazy diet tips in Cosmo or Men’s Health.
  2. Don’t pet the sweaty stuff.  Find an activity you love.  Getting started is hard enough, you shouldn’t have to suck it up and suffer through workouts.  Get out, have fun, profit.  Worry about adding in the necessary exercises after you’ve established a more active lifestyle.
  3. Form habits and the habits will form you.  Motivation comes and goes, but habits carry you through the tough times.
  4. Set goals!  You need short term and long term goals in life.  The short term gives you a constant sense of accomplishment, the long term give you a path to follow.  Set some really big goals.  You’re capable of more than you realize.
  5. Sometimes it’s better with friends.  I have seen friends fall in love with obstacle course races, lifting, yoga, and various other activities all because a friend decided to drag them along once.  There are so many great activities out there, so grab a friend and try them out.  You’ll have a community to lean on in the hard times and help you celebrate the good.
  6. Failure is not final.  Sometimes all you have at the end of the day is a quiet voice saying you’ll try again.  There were times I didn’t make progress for months, but I kept trying until I made it.  Don’t let someone’s rapid success discourage you, not all of us have that kind of discipline.
I started out at 217 pounds and barely able to walk up a flight of stairs.  I had no idea that I would accomplish as much as I have.  Just keep trying.  It might take you years to reach your goal (it did for me), but that time is going to pass anyway.

 

Failure isn't final

There are times when things just click.  Diet is easy and on point.  Workouts are going great.  Everything in life seems to be carrying us towards our goals.

There are also times when the world is falling around us and we are able to push through that.  We fight on through the struggles to keep our diet on track.  We overcome time constraints or exhaustion to get our workouts in.  

There are times where we fail.  We fail when it should be easy.  We fail when it gets hard.  Failure happens to almost everyone.  Momentary failures and even month long set backs don't mean we won't be successful.  We learn just as much through failure as we do through success.  Sometimes we have to keep trying and other times we need to adjust our methods.  

During my bulk I put on a lot more fat than I should have.  I struggled with binge eating still and I didn't want to cut if I couldn't control it.  I put aside my desire for a lean body in favor of fixing real problems.  Life happened and I stopped making it to the gym.  Getting back into eating appropriately for my goals plus lifting was very difficult. 

I don't want people to think that I am 100% disciplined because it isn't true.  I struggle just like everyone else.  My life doesn't revolve around fitness and sometimes I sleep in instead of going to the gym.  There are times where I ditch my meal plan in favor of just enjoying food without worrying about calories or macros.  I don't believe in trying to be perfect, just trying to do a bit better and maintain balance.  

Don't be so hard on yourselves!  Take failures as the opportunity to learn and keep an open mind when you ask for help.

I could tell you

I could tell you exactly how to lose 10 pounds.  That's what this site is for.  The exchange of fitness and nutrition information to help us make improvements.  Many of us seek improvement in the form of weight loss when we first get here.  I can help people do that and I enjoy watching people succeed.

I could also help you find ways to be proud of yourself as you currently are and ways to see yourself differently.  That is where the real change happens.  You could lose 10 pounds and still not be happy, but make internal changes and you will see things for the better.

I have made myself vulnerable over the years.  I've posted about almost all of my "flaws" (cellulite, loose skin, stretch marks) and my struggles (binge eating, body dysmorphia, depression, anxiety).  I think sharing these things is important to show that success doesn't look perfect along the way.  I won't pretend that I am perfect, because showing that I still struggle can give people hope that their struggles won't keep them from success.
 
  • Tell yourself that you are good enough.  
  • You don't have to believe that you will succeed, you just have to keep trying.
  • Stop beating yourself up. 

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

Life happens.  Something comes up and our progress gets put on the back burner, then we forget about it.  We make excuses and find other things that we need to do instead.  Soon the spark of complacency turns into a wildfire of laziness.

You might be able to contain that fire to one area.  Maybe you stop doing workouts, but you still log your food.  Maybe you stop caring about your intake and maintain your exercise.  Sometimes that fire is out of control and you don’t bother trying to contain it.

One day the heat from the fire starts to burn things that are important to you.  The scale reaches an uncomfortable number, your clothes stop fitting, you start feeling sluggish, or you are out of breath doing something that used to be easy.  At this point the damage is done and ignoring the fire is a new habit.  It’s now time to stop ignoring the fire, put it out and plant new life among the charred remains.

The beautiful thing about regrowth is that life takes hold quickly.  The habits are already there, they are just dormant.  The hardest part is simply putting out the flames and giving up the excuses. 

 

Vacation

Recently I went on a vacation that covered a period of 10 days.  During my long vacation I managed to lose a few pounds.  It wasn't my goal to lose weight, but I did focus on making better choices than I traditionally do.  I wanted to take a minute to talk about the choices I made that helped me stay on track.

Relax!  Vacation is the time to get away from the normal stressors in life.  Taking kids on vacation isn’t the most relaxing experience in the world, but I let go of control for a while and focused on enjoying the time away.  I didn’t drag them to things I wanted to do, I let them help pick our activities and we all ended up happy.  Reduced stress levels helped make sure that my body had time to lower my cortisol, just in case it happened to be elevated.

 

Getting active.  My favorite thing to do on vacation is be a sloth.  There are very few times where we have an excuse to just lay around and do nothing.  During vacation I got up at a fairly normal time to go to the fitness center at the hotel for a 20 minute workout before my kids woke up  It was some “me time” and set the tone for an active day playing with my kids.  We went swimming several times a day, so I found ways to use the water play as a workout.  Throwing kids, running while towing them, swimming laps, treading water, and even water aerobics didn't take away from the fun while adding a bit of fitness in.

 

Food is my friend.  I went into this vacation with two goals when it comes to food: eat foods that are filling and foods that are yummy.  I took my breakfast sandwich machine with me for a simple and filling breakfast without having to go out to eat.  We ate several meals out at places that we really wanted to go and I picked my food by what I really wanted that would be filling.  We also had the ability to grill, so I had chicken and vegetables fairly often.  I didn’t stress about how many calories I was eating, I focused on picking things that would keep me full and not snack just because there were snacks available.  Yes, I had it lucky that we had a grill and a fridge.

 

Vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing.  We shouldn’t stress about food or exercise, but if we have worked to make those things habits it will naturally happen even on vacation.  Vacations add up to a small portion of the year (unless you travel for work), so have fun and be reasonable.  Don’t make yourself and your family miserable worrying about every bite of food.  If you don’t go wild eating everything you can get your hands on you will stay on track. 

I don't look like I wanted to

In 2010 I decided to change my life and get in shape.  I spent time looking through magazines for the body I wanted and I taped pictures of my ideal body shape to the cupboards and fridge.  I was determined to look like those women.

Along the way I got hit with reality.  It wasn't that my stretch marks were forever or that I was going to end up with loose skin.  I learned that I was not built like those women. 

My ribs and hip bones stick out.  My hip structure means my legs rub.  My thighs and calves have lots of natural muscle.  I have a bump at the lower part of my stomach due to posture and genetics.  I was never going to look like the women taped around my house.

At that point I gave up worrying about how I was going to look when I lost weight and I tore all those pictures down.  I stopped trying to figure out what exercises made those women look the way they did and I started doing workouts I loved.  I decided I was going to work hard on improving how I looked and see where it got me.  Along the way I learned to love my thick thighs and wide ribs.

I am happy with where I am because this is my body.  I've done amazing things with this body.  It doesn't look like I had originally hoped it would, but I built it and that makes it even better.  

 

I am the Lorax

I have been told that blog posts do not fall under the same guidelines as the forums.  Our blog posts are allowed to link to threads and make comments that would get us immediately banned.  That should also mean that our blog posts can question the actions of the powers that be, without fear of punishment.

“I am the Lorax.  I speak for the trees.”

I am a long time user of MyFitnessPal.  I speak for those who lurk in the forums.  I speak for the new members.  

The forums can be overwhelming on day one.  There is so much information stored there and it takes time to understand how it is organized.  It takes time to read through even a small portion of the threads that are created on a minute by minute basis.  There are tons of conflicting views on every topic that exist when it comes to fitness and nutrition.

Many of us arrive on this site with the idea that a cleanse will fix us, spot reducing is effective if you pick the perfect exercise and starving ourselves is the way to lose weight.  We don’t know any better.  Magazines, advertising and media has failed us.  The weight loss industry has failed us.  Our educational system has failed us.

MFP did an incredible thing a couple of years ago.  They made sure that threads with solid starting points for new members were given a place of honor.  Each section now had a few points of reference that were visible when we opened a topic.  We were making a difference in correcting the misinformation and getting people on track.

A policy change has been implemented which has removed those helpful threads from that place of honor as a sticky.  In sections such as Success Stories it makes sense to highlight new stories from time to time and provide fresh inspiration.  In other sections the helpful threads have been replaced by threads that are low quality and contain contradictory ideas with little science or long term success standing behind it.

Why do I care?  It’s not about the thread I created being dropped from sticky status.  It’s that I was new here once upon a time and the way I found good information that lead to my success was from following a person around the forums.  We can no longer check the previous topics a user posted on, so we rely on helpful threads being in that place of honor as a sticky.  This tells us that the information has been read and approved by enough people that the information it contains is true.

I worried when MFP was sold, and again when they launched a pay version, that the site was becoming less helpful for those who don’t want to pay.  I have devoted lots of time and energy into this site after my success, only to see that MFP is getting worse.  I haven’t complained about the changes up to this point, but a line was crossed when good information is replaced with low quality threads.

I know I am not alone in this complaint.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” –Dr. Seuss

The axe

THE AXE

 

There was a lumberjack competition in the Northwest and competitors from all over the world came to compete. One of the competitions was an endurance test to see how many logs each competitor can split in a 12 hour period. Each competitors got one axe and a huge stack of wood.

When the competition started, all of the lumberjacks were feverishly splitting logs. One man in particular held a blistering pace and maintained a comfortable lead. 

About 50 minutes into the competition, the man with the strong lead stopped, grabbed his axe and walked into the woodshed which served as a makeshift locker room. 

The other competitors were a little surprised that he needed a break, but they continued to strike away and reduce that lead. Some even caught up to him.

Ten minutes later, the man returned and started splitting logs again, using the same pace and extending his lead once again. 

Like clockwork, at 50 minutes pas the hour, he took his axe and returned to the woodshed. The other competitors were too concerned with catching up that they never even bothered to wonder why he went into the woodshed for 10 minutes of every hour. 

The fascinating thing about this individual was not just the pace he kept but the fact that how much power he used and the ease that each log was splitting.

At the end of the competition, the man had won by a considerable margin. The one question that was on everyone's mind was:

What were you doing in the woodshed during that time?

Other competitors and spectators assumed he was taking some kind of performance enhancing drug, using some concentration techniques or getting a massage. 

When asked what he did during that time, the lumberjack answered very calmly:

I was sharpening my axe.

Regardless of what sport you are participating in you have to keep your skills sharp.  Set goals and push your limits.  Training at your current level may keep your ax sharp, but pushing your limits will make it more effective.

 

*I did not write this.  I copied it a few years ago and have no idea where it came from.  I'm just re-sharing. 

Sink or Swim

This morning I mentioned to my friends list that my kids passed their first level of swimming lessons last night.  Immediately after that my youngest was a bit too confident and required some lifeguard assistance when he got in over his head.  It was a frightening moment for me.

This incident got me thinking about how dieting is a lot like swimming.  You sink or swim.  Some people can jump in and be successful.  Others can't.

If you are one of those people who happen to sink, you are not doomed.  Just like in swimming there are teachers out there who can help you learn how to swim.  There will be people telling you just to jump back in or to try deeper water.  There will be people who will pat you on the shoulder and tell you it's okay to stay in the wading pool.  

Spend time learning about fat loss and exercise.  Even if you happen to swim or float in the beginning you may need help down stream.  Few of us are natural born swimmers.  There's nothing wrong with the slow dog paddle!

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