I have been on some kind of “diet” or weight-loss program off and on pretty much since I graduated from college. * clears throat * That would be about twelve years now. I gained a ton of weight in college. Forget the Freshman 15. It was the Freshman 50. I am not proud of that at all. I lost about 40 before my wedding and dabbled in weight-lifting in order to be a Buff Bride. Once I got married the weight creeped back on as combination of “happy weight” (or just being lazy, whichever) and pregnancy. I inched back to my post-college weight and then I got serious about my health. That was two years ago. I have been “dieting” or losing fat for the last two years.
I want you to know something about constant dieting. Your body is an amazing creation and it adapts to whatever you put it through. As you are dieting down your metabolism adjusts. So, if you are eating X number of calories and doing Y amount of cardio each day your body will adjust down to that level. Have you ever noticed that your body hits a plateau and you have to adjust your diet and/or change your exercise to bust through? Your metabolism has adjusted down to the amount of calories and exercise you are giving it.
Unfortunately, most women intuitively attempt to bust through the plateau by decreasing their calories and increasing their cardio. And they do that over and over and many times don’t see much progress. You know what’s happening? You are making your metabolism go down to a point that it is basically doing nothing for you. How in the world can you be eating only 1200 calories a day and doing an hour of cardio (or more) a day and not lose weight?! Or even worse, gain weight?! Your metabolism isn’t working anymore. It stinks, I know. I’ve got first hand knowledge of it all.
(Side note: I just want it to be said here for the record. I don’t think any woman should subject herself to eating a mere 1200 calories a day or less. That is torture for your body, mind, emotions, and people in your life. Throw in a decent amount of exercise and your net calories to live on is practically nothing. No wonder so many women are grumpy when “dieting” and have a hard time sticking to it.)
Okay, back to my original topic. I found myself not too long ago eating practically nothing and training like a fiend and yet my fat was not budging. Yep, my metabolism was tired. My body was tired from me trying to diet down for two years straight. My emotions were out of whack from the process and I was just done.
With fear and trepidation, I made the decision to begin the process of healing my metabolism. I turned my focus from losing fat to gaining muscle. Do you know what that means? To lose fat you have to eat in a deficit of your daily calorie needs. To gain muscle you have to eat in a surplus. Your muscles can’t gain mass without having extra calories to build on.
Eating in a surplus scares me….to….death. Just the idea of it puts images of myself back to my post-college shape. Forget the fact that I am training like crazy and burning tons of calories. My mind sees me fat again. Yes, there will be some fat involved. But, that can be minimized by hard training and good food choices. UGH!! Ask my husband about what a struggle his has been so far.
I am learning to eat again, though. I know my body is thanking me for the rest. For the first time in a very long time it isn’t being told to burn fat. It is being told to use the extra calories to fuel muscle growth. The scale is going up but my clothes are fitting the same if not looser. I am getting tighter despite the weight is going up. Grow, muscles, grow!!! All that being said I struggle every day to get all the calories I need for this to happen. Not eating is so ingrained in my psyche that I almost have to forgive every bite.
This muscle building phase, or bulking phase, will not last forever. After a couple more months of this I will enter a leaning out phase or cutting phase. But, the hope is that by building the muscle and healing my metabolism I will be able to lose fat while eating far more calories than I did before. I will be smarter and more educated this time around. I will definitely keep you informed during that process. 🙂
So, what’s the point of this post?
I think women in America need to learn how to eat again. Do NOT listen to those “diet gurus” who try to tell you to eat only 1200 or less calories a day. It just isn’t enough. We are making ourselves fat and unhealthy in our efforts to become fit and healthy. I am a victim of this myself and I am slowly crawling out of it. This is disordered eating and it isn’t good. Did you know an active woman can be fit and lean and eat 2000, 2500, and even 3000 calories a day?!?!?! It is just a matter of making the right choices in food and training.
Me? I’d much rather learn how to eat again and enjoy the food. I want balance in my life. Food is not my enemy. I will eat and be merry.