10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Health & Fitness Journey
Hey hey! With so many of you beginning your own health journey’s, I wanted to share some of my experiences to help get you started. If I had to start over, this list may have saved me a lot of frustration and money, as well as some sanity Here are ten things I wish I had known from the start!
1. Starvation Doesn’t Equal Weight Loss
“If I eat less, I can’t gain any weight!” Take this thought and extrapolate it to skipping meals, making one meal last all day, taking drugs to suppress your appetite, and replacing food with liquid [alcoholic] calories (college girl status) and you’ll get me at 19-21. I say 19 and not 18 because at 18 I was introduced to food halls at college and definitely put on the freshman 5-10. After that, I either skipped breakfast, lunch, or ate something “small” so it wasn’t a lot of calories. Did it work? No. Why? Because in theory not eating anything will make you lose weight, but in reality you get SO hungry that you end up binging late night or going out and drinking with friends and crushing Five Star Pizza at 3am…yeah… Let’s skip to training for NPC competitions and you could easily call the last weeks of show prep “starvation”. I ate protein at every meal, measured out vegetables, no fat, and barely any carbs. Anyone ever had boiled chicken or steamed tilapia? GROSS. This was necessary at the time for my goals, but it is not a healthy solution long-term. Post-comp I tried to maintain the “eat less” mentality to stay lean, but my body went in reverse and started GAINING due to stress, cortisol, and a now underfunctioning thyroid. Lesson learned: There are ways to eat and lose weight without starving yourself.
2. You Don’t Need All The Supplements
I get asked all the time about what supplements one should take to begin their weight loss journey and this is what I say: Short answer? None. Longer answer? Supplements are thought to be a magic bullet in terms of losing weight and/or gaining muscle, but in reality it’s the change in your lifestyle that gives you the most results. Supplements can at most times be a waste of money if you’re not also going to change your eating habits and exercise more. If there’s one supplement I can recommend, its protein powder to help meet your protein needs throughout the day. I don’t take fancy pre-workouts, intra-workouts, or post-workouts. I don’t take fat burning pills or CLA to “burn fat more efficiently”. I drink coffee before a workout and I eat REAL food or a shake with protein powder in it after a workout. I am consistent daily and focus more on my nutrition than my weight. These practices are my “magic bullet”. For anyone just starting out, get yourself a quality protein powder and get comfortable at the grocery store.
3. Water Is Your Best Friend
ALL HAIL H2O! Seriously, if there’s one adjustment you can make to your health RIGHT NOW, it’s to add more water into your diet. Your daily goal should be at least a gallon a day – 128 ounces of amazingness. Yes, you’ll have to pee a lot, but so what? The benefits completely outweigh the added bathroom trips. When I was first told how much water I needed to drink by my personal trainer eons ago for show prep, I was like, “WAIT WHAT?!” (which i’m sure is how most of you feel reading this). I laughed and was like, “sure thing, coach”. Now, I drink that much and more with ease. I built up to it and I decided I loved the way being adequately hydrated made me feel and look. Not only does it flush out toxins and crud from your body and reduce bloating, it helps you sleep better and it makes you look YOUNGER. Say WHATTTTTT. Yes. Water hydrates the skin from the inside out and we all know wrinkles form faster when skin is dry. To help myself stay accountable, I carry around a liter bottle with me everywhere and refill it 4 times, which is a little more than a gallon. Drink up, beaches.
4. Hours Of Cardio Won’t Get You Anywhere
Former Cardio Queen here! I used to do 45 minutes to an hour on the treadmill, elliptical, stairmaster – you name it. I figured churning on the hamster wheel would help me burn off last night’s late night taco bell and cheap rum – WRONG. Sure, I burned some calories and cardio is great for cardiovascular health, but I didn’t look any better or get any skinnier. Sadly, your body is smart and it adapts to your activities, especially if you don’t change them up. That hour on the elliptical may have been super difficult at the beginning, but now it’s a breeze and you don’t burn as many calories anymore. If you want real results, hit the weights. Lean muscle has been shown to increase your BMR, or the amount of calories your body burns while literally doing nothing. Who doesn’t want to burn more calories while sleeping?! Sign me up. In addition, muscles add curves and NO, YOU WON’T GET BULKY.
5. It’s More A Mental Game Than A Physical One
This was a huge “aha” moment for me. Sure, workouts were super tough and I hated my trainer somedays, but that physical torture was NOTHING compared to the mental self-control needed to say no to a cookie. Results are the sum of a few things, two major keys being discipline and self-control. You HAVE to tell yourself “no” more times than you think. Some of my hardest moments were being at tailgates in college and having to go eat my lunch I had packed in my lunchbox instead of the pizza and burgers. Or being out at bars with my friends and not being able to drink. I used to walk around with soda water and a lime just so people wouldn’t ask why I wasn’t drinking. This was tougher in college, obviously. I’ve even taken chicken breast out of my purse to eat at a movie…yeah…gross. Now, my self-control and discipline is “built in”. You get to a point where you get good at saying no and you fall in love with the results of your hardwork and discipline; you become mentally AND physically tough. Prepare for the mental battle and the physical one.
6. Patience Is Key
“Women should date men with muscles because building muscles takes patience – the kind of patience it takes to put up with your shit.” HAAAAAA! Jokes aside, this quote is SO ACCURATE. Getting the body of your dreams doesn’t happen overnight. Hell, it doesn’t even happen over 90 nights. Results take time, especially healthy results. I wish I could do some crunches and magically have a 6-pack, but then if it were that easy everyone would have a 6-pack and it wouldn’t be a goal for a lot of us. Losing 1-2lbs a week is considered the healthy way to lose weight. 5-10lbs a week is not considered healthy because it likely is from severe restriction and it won’t be sustainable (your initial loss also depends on how much you have to lose to begin with). Muscles grow due to the tearing and recovering of muscle fibers over and over again. This process takes patience. “It takes 6 months to build a Rolls Royce but only 13 hours to build a Toyota”. Know that this is going to take longer than you thought and don’t allow yourself to get discouraged!
7. You Will Have To Make Sacrifices, But They’re Worth It
This ties in with the mental aspect in #5. You’re going to have to change the way you eat, the way you spend your time, and the way you think about your health. You’ll have to sacrifice sleep sometimes to get up early and workout before work. You’ll have to sacrifice sweets and desserts to lose that last stubborn 5lbs. You’ll have to sacrifice time spent doing other things so you can grocery shop and meal prep. You’ll have to sacrifice partying to get quality sleep. But you know what? I don’t regret any of the sacrifices I’ve had to make because I know they are for my greatest good and they’ve led me to my goals and to feeling awesome, both internally and externally.
8. Macros And Quality Of Food Matters
This could be an entire post on its own, but I’ll keep it short. Eating healthy is only one part of the puzzle – food quality and the amount you’re eating are huge factors in your nutrition. Grocery stores are lined with products that claim they’re “protein-packed”, “low fat”, “low carb”, and “zero sugar”, but what they don’t say is that the artificial sweeteners inside will rip your stomach apart and the processed additives and ingredients will cause massive inflammation. Yuck. You’ll only feel as good as the ingredients you put into your body, so aim for foods with minimal ingredients and one’s that are familiar to you. Secondly, macros matter. The amount of carbs, fat, and protein you’re eating can have an effect on your goals. You can also reach your goals faster by adjusting these little nuggets of nutrition. To get started with a macro plan, shoot an email to [email protected]
9. You Won’t Want To Do It Every Day
As I’m writing this blog post, I’m thinking of my workout later. The only reason I want to workout is because I got new dumbbells. Otherwise, I would have to force myself into activity. Surprised? I’m not. It happens to the best of us. You’re not always going to be motivated. In fact, I’d say it’s probably not normal to always be motivated. Want to know what keeps me at it every single day? It’s become a lifestyle. It has become a part of my routine. To keep myself accountable, I usually workout first thing in the morning so I get it done and feel great the rest of the day. Today, that couldn’t happen and now I find myself out of my routine and dragging. BUT I’M GOING TO DO IT ANYWAY and then eat extra carbs for dinner 🙂 haha
10. People Will Judge You
OH LAWDDDD THE JUDGEMENT. Why would people judge you for trying to lose weight or become healthier? There’s a few reasons:
- You’re doing what they can’t
- You’re making them feel lazy or out of shape
- They don’t understand
Your friends and family likely don’t mean any harm, but your new lifestyle may be confusing to them. They may make comments about your new love for salads or how much you’re running lately, or even persuading you to give in and indulge because “It’s the weekend! Eat some pizza!”. Whenever I’m with a group of friends, there’s always someone who makes a comment about my eating. “OMG! Dwyer’s eating a carb! What!” or “We know you won’t be eating any desserts” with an accompanied eyeroll and snicker. And you know what? They’re right. I don’t have a sweet tooth.. But the way I eat shouldn’t make you feel bad if you want to have a piece of cake. The ultimate judgement comes from bringing your own food to an event. All you want to do is stay super disciplined and your family takes it as an insult that what they have isn’t good enough for you. Sigh. It’s an adjustment for sure, but the longer you keep it up, the more everyone will come around and see how important this is to you. Calmly explaining to them your goals and why also helps to speed things along. All you have to remember is your “WHY” for starting and continuing this journey. Not everyone is meant to understand your journey!
Well folks, there ya have it: Ten things I wish I knew before starting so I could maybe prepare myself a little better. Hopefully this helps some of you get an idea of what you’re in for. This is NOT meant to deter you in any way from starting! If I was writing a blog about the things i’ve learned and the benefits i’ve experienced while on this journey, the list would be a lot longer than 10. Good luck with your health journey and as always, please reach out if you have any questions!