Anyone who knows me personally knows that I’m passionate and knowledgeable about fitness, nutrition, and health. As I’ve mentioned before, I got into weightlifting at the early age of 15 and spent most of my teen years and early twenties consuming every women’s health mag I could get my hands on and hitting the gym daily.
But then life happened. When you’re in college, start working a “real” job, and begin to build deeper relationships with friends and loved ones, leisurely flipping through glossy magazines and spending all your time and energy on, well, yourself kind of goes by the wayside.
And that’s not a bad thing. As we grow, our priorities change, and I, for one, am glad my life has been enriched by all these experiences that came out of becoming a little less self-absorbed (come on, aren’t most teens? J).
But now I feel I’ve hit a good stride in terms of family, friends, and career—as many women say about their 30s—and I’ve since added back a bit more self-care into the mix.
Over the years, I’ve had my fitness ups and downs (read: gained weight, lost it, gained weight, lost it…). As I wrote on here a couple of years back, grad school and a miserable desk job led to some fairly significant weight gain that took me to the my highest weight ever. And it wasn’t just about scale weight, either; I was completely out of shape, tired, depressed, in pain, and just plain miserable every day.
When I’d finally had enough, I set myself up a diet and exercise program and saw incredible results. I lost about 30 pounds, but more importantly, I gained incredible strength and definition—more than I’d ever had in my life.
Last year, I bought my first home and moved away from my gym. Needless to say, fitness and this blog haven’t been a top priority. The home buying process is a huge time suck, and you all know what a pain in the ass moving is! The good news is, though I gained a bit of “fluff” and lost some definition, I’ve maintained my overall health in the 9 month since the big transition.
I made sure to get out in the yard and play with my dogs (btw, we have a new, unplanned addition!), my husband and I took regular walks with our four-legged friends, and, perhaps most importantly, I kept my nutrition in check (for the most part). This all happened last summer, which then led into the holidays, so, naturally, I overindulged at times, but not too badly.
But since our new home sits on a half an acre and has quite a bit of square footage for two adults and four dogs, we’ve been able to raise chickens (fresh, organic eggs, people!), install home gym equipment, and start a garden. All of these things add up to healthy, happy living.
In the past two or so months, I’ve been hitting the weights again (in our garage) and have already lost a bit of the fluff. I was beyond happy to see that I still have a lot of my muscle mass hidden under there, so getting “back into shape” hasn’t been a major ordeal.
Now I want to kick things into high-gear in preparation for summer and my trip to Vegas in late May! I’ve just started a 12-week program, which is plenty of time to see some amazing results. Compared to my journey to shape up for Maui a couple years back, I’m anticipating even better results this time around.
For one, my starting point is better—I don’t have nearly as much fat to lose and I already have a decent amount of muscle. Secondly, I’m going “all in” for this program. What do I mean? Well, I’m always about balance and don’t believe in eating 1000 measly calories a day. But I am going to be much more careful with my nutrition.
Typically, I allow myself a pretty flexible diet with a decent about of cheat meals. In general, I feel that’s a good, healthy approach. Enjoying nachos on date night is A-Okay. Getting candy at the movies on occasion is perfectly acceptable. Life is meant to be fun; food is meant to be enjoyed. Indulging feels good.
That being said, when you have serious goals, it’s time to buckle down and tighten up the rules. That’s true for anything in life, not just fitness. Starting a business? Maybe you have to skip girls’ night out. Trying to heal a relationship? Perhaps you’ll want to cut back on your TV time and put more energy into connecting with your loved one. You get the idea.
Now I want to get even more cut and lean than I’ve ever been, so I’ll need to make a few sacrifices (nachos being one of them!). Here’s the thing, though: this isn’t forever. I truly believe in balance and the “everything in moderation” approach for the long haul. Life is too short to deny yourself a regular glass of wine or a big stack of pancakes every now and again. But buckling down and getting stricter with your diet and exercise for short stints is a great way to make serious progress toward your goals.
I like to think about living a fit, healthy lifestyle as consistency and balance with occasional waves of going hardcore. This is relevant if you are striving to lose additional fat or take your body to the “next level.”
For example, say you are on a fitness journey to be your healthiest you, which includes being able to eat out with friends guilt-free, have regular cheat meals, and have a life outside the gym. You live this way most of the year. But then you have a tropical vacation coming up or summer’s just around the corner and you want to get a little more definition for your bikinis and backless maxi dresses. This is when you’ll want to set a realistic timeline for reigning in your diet a bit and getting serious with your training.
Personally, I don’t think you want to go longer than 12 weeks (or about 3 months) at this rate. The thing about “going hardcore” is that it burns you out and simply isn’t sustainable long-term. So be really, really good during this time, then loosen up a bit. Make the most of these short bursts of intense diet and exercise.
The key, however, is to go back to a balanced approach. Don’t go bat-shit-crazy eating whatever the hell you want every day as a “reward.” Food is not a reward or a punishment. If you swing too far in the opposite direction after a period of leaning out, you’ll find yourself back at Square One (or worse) in no time. For me, with each wave of buckling down, I find that my body maintains an overall better look in the long run, even after I’ve added back cheat meals and occasional treats.
Also, side note: I am in no way suggesting that we MUST lean out for summer or get cut in order to wear a bathing suit. I believe that we should rock whatever the hell we want, whenever the hell we want, regardless of our shape and size. Overall, my focus is on living a happy, healthy, sustainable lifestyle, and I do believe eating nutritious foods and being active is important for health and happiness. But, it’s also okay to want a six pack or killer delts or whatever it is you covet. Just like we as a society shouldn’t shame “curvy girls” or “skinny girls,” neither should we shame girls who desire the lean, ripped aesthetic. Your goals should be entirely based on what is right for YOU.
Well, I’ve rambled enough for today. In the coming weeks, I’ll update you with my progress and share more about my workout and meal plan. Just remember: I am not this strict with my diet and exercise 365 days a year, and you shouldn’t be either. Vegas is just 81 days away (OMG) and you can bet your ass I’ll indulge in some poolside cocktails once I’m there.
How do you approach health and fitness? Do you have “rules” you follow?
Is anyone else starting their summer prep now?
Share your thoughts in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!