Earlier this week, I wrote about the new way that I've been tracking my fitness and wellness progress. If you missed it, check out that article here.
In that article, I show you two different scans of my body about two months apart. In the second one, I'm considerably leaner and more toned, which are improvements I'm really proud of! As promised, I've broken down how I was able to shed some of the inflammation and puffiness I'd accumulated over the last year and really tone up in just two months! I think you'll be surprised to hear how I really did it.
Over the last year, year and a half, I've been pretty stressed. My husband and I sold our first home and moved, I left my full time job to become an entrepreneur in the health and wellness world (OMG terrifying), and then my husband transitioned into a completely new career too. There are a few more things thrown into the mix there as well. So, I'm not telling you this to complain at all. These transitions have been gritty at times but also wonderful. I'm a true believer that if you aren't scared out of your mind and pushing yourself to your limit, you are doing something wrong. The reason I do bring this up though, is to show you how much stress can impact the body.
Over the course of this year and a half, I slowly but surely began to put on a little bit of weight and inflammation. I'm not talking a lot here, I'm talking about 7-9lbs or so, but my pants were getting tighter, I started to feel self conscious in my clothes and definitely didn't want to walk around in a bikini. With the added pressure of transitioning into the world of health and wellness, I was pretty mortified that I was putting on weight while trying to help other people lose it...weird and super uncomfortable.
In an effort to self correct, I started exercising like a mad woman, upped my protein intake by a lot and completely cut out all carbs, even sweet potatoes. This didn't work. It actually made things worse.
Surprised? So was I. I couldn't figure it out! The only constant was that I wasn't losing weight and felt more sluggish than ever.
In an effort to not let this weight gain get the best of me, I had a lot of conversations around confidence with my husband. He was really supportive and pumped me up about my body and how great I looked (he's a gem). In my mind, it wasn't that I didn't look good, it was more that I just couldn't control how my body was reacting to food and exercise. So I worked out more and became even stricter with my diet.
Are any of you noticing a pattern here? Now that I'm a few months removed from this, I can see it pretty clearly now. I was putting an IMMENSE amount of stress on my body. The more weight I put on, the harder I exercised and the stricter I became with my diet, which in turn put ever more stress on my body. This is the classic cycle that a lot of women fall into and I was the latest victim. It's been engrained in our brains from magazines, tv shows, blogs and even our friends and families that the more you exercise and the stricter you are with your diet, the better shape you'll be in. Right? Well, not necessarily. Insert my AHHA moment.
After another long conversation with my husband where I was frustrated with my lack of improvement and he was trying to pump me up, I broke down. I felt exhausted in every way. My body was always so incredibly sore, I felt wiped out by about 3PM every day and I was so over the strictness I'd imposed on my diet. So, I decided to go in the completely opposite direction. In short, I did three things.
1. I cut WAY back on exercise :: Before my AHA moment, I was doing a lot of HIIT, weight lifting and then also spin and stair running. I was taking 1 day off per week and then pushing it to the max the other 6. So, when I decided to change things up, I focused on lifting heavy 2x per week with no cardio in between my weight lifting sets, and then went to barre or 1 spin class on another day. This means I went from working out 6x per week to just 3-4. There were some days when I would add in a hike or a long walk but that was it.
2. I upped my fat intake and lowered my protein :: When I took a second to look back at my diet during this time I noticed that I'd really increased my protein consumption. It happened slowly so I didn't really notice but now that I look back, I was eating WAYYYY too much. Protein is great and can really aid in weight loss but if it's making up more than 50% of your calories, it can be too much. Or at least, it was for me at that time. So, I decided to cut way back on my protein consumption and instead, focus on LOTS of healthy fats and tons of veggies. My body loved it.
3. I learned to stress less :: So, this is a biggie. It's clear that my body doesn't like stress (well I mean whose does?) and it was taking a visible toll. So to stress less, I did two things. One, I started a consistent meditation practice in the mornings. My husband has always been a big meditator while I used to kind of brush it off because I never had time or felt like I needed to be doing something more productive. So, with a little push from him, I started a short meditation practice in the morning. Immediately, I noticed how it helped change my perspective on other stressors in my life. Even after just a few mornings of meditation, I noticed that I wasn't anxious out of my mind thinking about the 10000 things I needed to do to make money and build up my business. The second thing I did to decrease my stress, especially in the mornings, was to begin each morning with what I call my list. This is a tip that I took from a productivity video from Brendon Burchard and it works like magic! Every morning, before I dive into emails or check Instagram, I make my list. The list includes projects or deliverables that MUST get done that day. Does a blog post need to go out? Who do I have to reach out to today? Then, next to it, I write out my list of things that have longer due dates. For example, building a new program or cleaning up pages on my website. This list helps me get really clear on WHAT needs to get done and when. I used to get lost in emails in the morning or researching new health tips online only to realize it was noon and I hadn't started on that new blog post. Now that was stressful!
So, over the last 2-3 months, I've been focusing on these 3 things. I'm exercising less which has taken an immense amount of stress off my body. I'm eating more healthy fats and less protein. This is allowing more room for leafy greens and healthy fats to help decrease inflammation. And more importantly, I've built tools into my life to help me manage my stress. Almost immediately, when I started to implement these things, my body responded. It was like it was speaking to me and saying "Thank you! I've been so exhausted! Thank you for letting me heal".
I leave you with this. Each and every person is different but what's important to remember is to treat your body well and honor and respect how hard it works for you. More isn't always better when it comes to weight loss and better health. Sometimes, all your body wants is a little rest! So, I encourage you to take a step back and look at different ways to decrease the amount of stress you are putting on your body. Could you start by adding a 5 minute meditation practice to your morning? Or maybe write out your list first thing in the morning? Take some time this weekend to think about what's adding stress to your life and what you can do to manage it.