…or do they?
A big part of beauty is… wait for it… body image. I often get comments ranging from, “You need to gain weight!” to “OMG you look great, what’s your secret?!” I’ve had a good friend call me “Ana” as a joke. It used to really bother me but I think with time I’ve learned to accept who I am and the way my body is. Things like that don’t get to me, anymore. (Skinny shaming is just as bad as calling people out for being overweight) I won’t lie to you and say that I work out all the time or that I eat super clean, because I don’t. I also won’t lie and say that I do absolutely nothing and attribute the way I look to genetics, though I’m sure they’re partly the reason I am the way I am. I’ve always been a thin girl, for as long as I can remember. You can look back at pictures of me from when I was a child and my arms and legs are twiggy, they still are for the most part. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a small girl. That being said, I’ve also always been a very active girl.
I gained no weight during fall semester of my freshman year in college. However, spring semester my gynecologist suggested that I get on birth control to remedy my irregular periods and iron deficiency. She said I’d feel great after I started taking them. She was wrong. I know there’s no causal link between birth control and weight gain but after I took these pills I suddenly gained my “freshman 15” and then some. My face broke out in the worst cystic acne you could imagine; I had never suffered acne a day in my life, I was mortified. In high school I was semi-active, I played sports and I was on a regular diet (meaning I didn’t eat at random hours of the day; I packed a lunch, occasionally bought food from the cafeteria, and had a home cooked meal for dinner most nights) so I maintained my “twiggy” body. However, college was a different story. I lived a pretty sedentary lifestyle, my parents had bought me a meal plan because I was living in a dorm and I had no kitchen. I lived off of junk food. I’m not using that as an excuse, I know, there are plenty of salad bars and healthy options at college campuses nationwide. However, dieting was just something I never had to worry about before and as a result I ate what I wanted, whenever I wanted. One day, out of curiosity I did something unthinkable: I woke up early, walked over to our university’s track and decided to run before class. I couldn’t even run a mile. I was so ashamed of myself.
That summer, I worked out a lot, I made healthier choices when it came to food, I educated myself on nutrition, I found a face regimen that worked for me. I was determined, not to be twiggy again, but to just feel like myself. Even if I weighed whatever I weighed, I wanted to be able to run a mile. As a result, I ended up more toned than I’d ever been in my life. I don’t think my skin will ever be the way it was before I broke out, but it was clear again. I didn’t care what I weighed, I finally felt healthy again. At that point in my life, I wasn’t really dieting. I ate everything I wanted BUT I ate in moderation AND I cooked everything myself. I allowed myself to go out to eat once a week, I stopped frequenting the fast food places I held so dear.
Since then, I’ve found a happy medium. I’m probably at my lowest weight but I’m definitely not at my healthiest, which is why I think the number on your scale can be deceiving. I don’t have strict rules about when and what to eat. I still eat everything in moderation and try to work out as often as I can. (Lately, I’ve gotten a bit lazy but I’m slowly getting back into the habit!) The important thing I’m trying to convey is the message of “I“. The things I did were for myself. I had no ulterior motive to getting fit. I just wanted to feel like the strongest, healthiest me possible. So, if you’re also motivated to start living a healthier lifestyle here are a few things that worked for me:
1) Don’t rely on fad diets/cleanses – They’re temporary, aim for a lifestyle change. Instead of reaching for a shake every time you get hungry try eating raw fruits and veggies, a handful of almonds or even some string cheese in between regular healthy meals.
2) Set realistic goals for yourself – Don’t aim to run a marathon if you can’t run a mile. It’s going to set you back and be really discouraging. Start small, work your way up.
3) Be intrinsically motivated – Someone telling you that you need to gain/lose weight isn’t going to help you. Until you want to see a difference in your health, you won’t. Do things because YOU want to and you’ll be more motivated to do them.
4) Learn to make your favorite foods at home – I never denied myself anything I craved. I just learned to make it myself using fresh ingredients in a healthier way. This also helped to monitor what went into my food and how much of it I was using. Learn to make swaps – love burgers? Try making a lean turkey burger or chicken burger instead of your traditional beef burgers. Most importantly sneak in veggies wherever and whenever you can. That way you’re eating more good than bad but you’re still satisfying your craving.
5) Do something that makes you sweat, once a day – I’m the kind of person who needs change. I can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. You don’t have to be drenched in sweat, I just mean that you should engage in an activity that gets your heart pumping… Dance, do yoga, run, go for a bike ride, lift weights… Whatever it is, just do something physical and keep things interesting!
6) Learn to love your body – When I gained all that weight, I didn’t have that Beyonce booty I longed for. Even after countless squats, lunges and protein shakes… No Beyonce booty. (Hey, a girl can dream.) That’s not a big deal for me, I love tons of other stuff about my body! I might not be the curviest girl but I love my flat tummy. As corny as it sounds, think positively. Find the things you WOULDN’T change about yourself and emphasize those.
*Disclaimer* I’m not a nutritionist, nor am I a certified physical trainer.