I ran into a friend of mine last week, and we were talking about how much harder it is to maintain, let alone lose body fat, as we age.
It’s no joke.
As we were talking, I was recalling the struggles that I was feeling before. Before now; when I realized that I needed to figure this whole thing out or I was going to still be obsessing over my weight on my deathbed.
At the time, I was running an hour a day 3-4 times a week, and on days when I wasn’t running, I was either taking a kickboxing class, or a spin class. Then, about 4-5 days a week, I would go back to the gym later to spend another 40-60 minutes strength training.
I knew it wasn’t sustainable. I knew that it wasn’t something that I could keep doing into my 60’s. And although I was telling myself that this was a stop-gap measure – something that I was doing for a short period of time to get me to my goal – I knew that it wasn’t getting me to my goal, and at the same time I was terrified to cut down on my exercise.
I was scared to back off because my appetite was out of control. And if I backed off on my cardio, then surely I would balloon up. Right? cause that’s how calories in versus calories out works – you’ve got to burn more than you eat if you want to lose. And although I didn’t think I was overeating, if I had a deficit & was maintaining, I was scared to find out what would happen if I ate at maintenance, or had less of a deficit.
What I didn’t realize at the time, was that I was trying to get my body to do something by forcing it into compliance.
“Ha! You want me to do WHAT?”
Yeah – that was basically what my body was saying.
So, in this battle that I was having with my body, I was done. This wasn’t the mindset I wanted to have for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to die while still thinking and obsessing about my weight, my diet, how bad my body felt – even though I was exercising like a maniac, and when I could freakin’ eat again!
I had to come to peace with where I was; where I thought I should be.
What I haven’t talked about during this change, are the questions I asked myself. And I invite you to ask yourself the first of these two questions as well, if you’re someone who is/has been struggling with your weight:
What if you never lost another pound in your life? What if this was the best that your body was ever going to look again?
And that’s not to say that you can’t get disease from not taking care of yourself. But if you looked at your habits from purely a weight perspective. Would you:
- still exercise?
- eat your vegetables?
- sleep less or more?
- manage your stress?
- Or would you just say, ‘Eff It! I’m going to eat that entire cheesecake!’?
I think that along with this question comes some grieving – a loss that accompanies the expectation that your life is going to be different if/when you lose that weight.
And depending on your grieving process, you might self-soothe with some cheesecake.
But then, after you’ve grieved the loss of the body you were supposed to have, what would you do?
Okay, so let me pose another hypothetical question: what would you do if you knew that you would never gain or lose another pound in your entire life?
Then would you eat the cheesecake? Maybe.
But again, going back to health – how long would that last?
Food and exercise influence so much more than our weight. Research has shown that there is clear causality between what we eat and how we sleep, how we feel (physically, mentally and emotionally), how we think (mental fog, clarity and focus), and how we react and respond to stressful situations.
So going back to those two hypothetical questions:
- What would you do if you knew that you would never lose another pound in your entire life?
- What would you do if you knew that you would never gain or lose another pound in your entire life?
I asked myself, if I never lost another pound, would I be okay?
Yes. I would be.
When I accepted that this could potentially be the best it was going to be, I stopped fighting. I gave in. The struggle to make my body conform to something that it was never going to be just disappeared.
The body has been around a lot longer than our thinky-brain. Our cells do what they’re supposed to do. Our hormones communicate to the different parts of our body what’s going on & what to do with that info. And yet, we continually try to outsmart it, and fight against it. Make it comply with our current ideas of what is beautiful. But the body has a deep ingrained survival instinct that we’re still trying to figure out. It knows what it’s doing. Science is only giving us a small view into the ‘whats’ and the ‘whys’.
When what we should be doing is giving it what it wants and needs, we think that we can outsmart it, and beat it into compliance. What we fail to realize, is that in the end, it will repay us by giving us what we want – optimal health which results in our ideal physique.
What I haven’t talked about was what happened to my attitude toward food and exercise once I made peace with my body. Once I made peace with the fact that this might just be the best it’s ever going to get.
So, when it came time to decide: if I would never be as lean as I wanted to be/or thought I should be, what would I do?
If I was never going to look like Jennifer Aniston, I would at least give my body what it needed to be healthy. And in return, ironically, my body thanked me by being the body I was trying to get.
By thinking about my overall health, regardless of what my weight was, I have been able to maintain a lower weight than I had when I was trying to game the system. When I was trying to outsmart my body by exercising too much and eating too little, it gave me a big middle finger.
By changing the way I looked at health – not as an aesthetic, but a state of being – I was able to achieve the aesthetic that I was so desperately trying to achieve.
By reflecting on how food, movement, sleep and stress make me feel, I am practicing giving my body what it needs over the long term versus the immediate want. And in doing that, I realize that as I get older, I need to treat my body with more respect and care than I did when I was a younger woman.
Because we’re not getting any younger, and it’s not getting any easier.
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Because if there’s something I’ve learned over the years, is that even as much as we think we’re alone in what we’re going through, chances are that others can relate and help.