Grrr.... don't I look
So let me start by saying that I think every person is unique and should really try to find a routine that works for them (same goes with fashion – those “10 items every woman should own” lists are ridiculous). I think we can all learn by example, though, so here’s my story of how I found a fitness routine that works for me (hint: there was a lot of trial and error):
Phase 1: I meet exercise for the first time. My second year of college (about 7 years ago), there was a red dress I wanted to wear to my sorority's formal but I couldn't fit into it. Before this moment, it had never occurred to me to workout, I had never run one mile without stopping and I definitely didn't know anything about nutrition. I started working out like crazy and lost 35 pounds. I kept it off during college, but I continued to eat badly and just worked out like crazy to make up for it. I was basically running in circles.
Phase 2: I meet nutrition for the first time. When I graduated college and entered the real world, I pretty much gained it all back. Why? Because I still ate like crap. Working a full time job doesn’t give you all the free time in the world to work out like I did in college. Here's a picture from this phase:
It's kind of hard to see in this picture, but I was two sizes bigger. Definitely not obese or anything, but I was awfully sluggish and not very healthy. You add to the equation that I'm hypoglycemic, which means I basically get sick from eating sugars and white flour, and you've got one unhappy camper who needed to change her ways.
Phase 3: I become obsessed with exercise/nutrition. A couple years later, I entered this phase which I call the “maniac phase”. I cared way too much. I worked out 6 days a week, an hour a day and ate really boring food. I spent way too much time at the gym and not enough time enjoying the life. Here's a picture of me during phase #3. I was pretty darn fit, but I also really resented working out. You honestly couldn’t pay me to want to live like that again. Life is too short. ☺
Phase 4: Finding balance. Since moving to Florida in 2009, I started a wonderful new phase - the "finding my balance" phase. (Please note: this phase comes after you've already lost any weight you need to loose and are now just trying to maintain a healthy weight). Balance is about not being so hard on yourself in regards to the way you look. It's about exercising to feel good, and eating healthy because you want to (not to fit into a specific size). Being fit is a way of life. It's not a fad diet or the latest workout craze, or something you do twice; it's a life-long commitment to being healthy. I honestly don't have a set workout routine because it works best for me to not think about it that much. That won't work for everyone though. For some people, finding balance might be setting up a strict workout schedule, blogging about food, or being on Weight Watchers; everyone is different. But the idea is to find what works for you so that you're able to maintain your weight within your everyday life. (this also applies this to having a fashionable wardrobe - find what works for you in your everyday life!)
Here are some tips to get you started…
- Lift weights, lift weights, lift weights. I can't stress this enough. Every woman, regardless of age and weight, should be pumping iron (note: not heavy iron, but itty bitty iron, like 3-10 pound dumbbells). Trust me, you will not get huge muscles. But you will burn fat like crazy and slim down. Lifting weights/doing resistance training is the best advice I can give anyone.
- Find an activity you love. Swimming, playing tennis, biking, hiking, running, rowing, doing the elliptical. All of these are enjoyable to different people, and all of them provide pretty awesome cardio. Find the one or two that you love. I personally do a mix of running, elliptical and weights; but again it’s all about finding activities that don’t make you want to quit after the first week.
- Find your rhythm. Lots of people ask "how often do you work out?" but how often I work out won't help you because everyone is different. One person may only need to go a couple times a week, but another person may need to go 5 times a week to maintain their weight. Also consider your schedule. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Find what works for you and stick with it.
- Set a goal. Nothing feels better than setting a goal and smashing it. I ran my first race, a half marathon, this past March. It felt awesome. It was not about losing weight (I actually gained a few pounds doing it), it was about trying something that seemed impossible and overcoming it. Walk a 5K, loose 10 pounds, eat healthy for 3 days. Try something!! ☺
- Make peace with food. It took me years to figure out that what I put in my mouth affected my body, but it absolutely does. I could never find balance until I got my eating in order since it's such a huge part of the equation. If you have an emotional response to eating try to get at the source so you can stop the emotion that causes the eating. (They talk about this all the time on The Biggest Loser.)
- Don’t bring junk food into the house. Make sure you’re not hungry when you go to the grocery store. Then limit yourself to buying only healthy/un-processed items. I sometimes get cravings for ice cream during the week, but that added hurdle of actually having to leave the house and go get it usually changes my mind.
- Make Monday-Friday your safe zone. As noted above, there's no junk food in our house so I pretty much eat like an angel during the week. On the weekends though, we tend to eat out once or twice and that's my "reward" time for eating healthy during the week. Nobody is perfect, so give yourself the opportunity to eat fun stuff from time to time.
Feel free to leave your own tips for healthy eating in the comment section, and check out these food/fitness blogs for more great tips and daily inspiration!
- Meals and Miles
- The Fitnessista
- Meals and Moves
- A Foodie Stays Fit
- Raya Runs
- The Balanced Foodie
- Peanut Butter Fingers