I feel very vulnerable sharing this. It’s easier to pretend like everything is easy, that every challenge is simple and that I have it all together. The picture above makes me want to hide. Why am I showing that to the world?
I believe in authenticity.
I had never been so frustrated in my life as the day in September, 2016 that I saw this photo:
Six days a week CrossFit. Running. Hiking. Eating right. Why wouldn’t that thing around my middle go away?
I’d never been skinny that I could remember. But there are a few fat times that really stick out in my mind, many of them as a teen.
There’s the time I felt embarrassed browsing for size 18. There’s the times I looked at pictures and wondered why I looked so fat. There’s stepping on the scale, seeing “180” and vowing to never see that number again (although I would). That was immediately followed by the undiagnosed eating disorder, when I decided that just not eating anything would solve the problem and make me “perfect.” I was 16, and felt huge on the outside, but shaky and scared and small on the inside.
Then there were the days after college that I decided to start eating “low fat” versions of things instead of the regular kind, because why not. And it did help. That was followed by years of a never ending flow of Diet Coke (it literally has zero calories — like some kind of voodoo magic) that I made me feel full. Also, it was delicious and made my brain feel good. I supplemented it with low-fat wheat thins, and modeled my eating habits on those I saw from women while growing up. What’s wrong with a diet coke, a handful of crackers, cheese and apples for meals? And why didn’t it result in fitness and weight loss?
Somewhere in those years I started going to gyms, thinking I could drop weight that way. And I did — but only a little here and there. It was always a constant struggle.
After babies the struggle got worse. Added to my woes was a flat tire like situation around my stomach that I simply could not shed no matter what I did. My bad thinking about food left over from my starvation days didn’t help. I thought about it as something I needed to restrict. I viewed the necessity of food as a punishment, not as something I could control by making better choices.
All of that changed when I started Whole30. The Whole30 program taught me that food wasn’t an infliction. If I focused on the quality instead of the quantity, I could actually enjoy it. I dropped several sizes and felt amazing. I actually enjoyed cooking and eating. CrossFit came along about a year later, and I added a fitness system that actually brought results. The pair was life changing. I consistently stuck with “clean” Paleo eating for about four years.
But then somewhere in there I hit a stalemate. No matter what I did at the gym, no matter how hard I worked or how clean I ate, a flat tire persisted around my middle. Sometimes I even gained weight while working out, like when I trained for a marathon.
WHY WOULDN’T THE WEIGHT GO AWAY?
Clearly, the high-fat, low-carb Paleo thing wasn’t working for me anymore. But I didn’t know what to do. I found myself googling “liposuction” and “tummy tuck.” Maybe surgery would be the answer. The frustration was overwhelming.
Since I had started CrossFit I’d from afar watched this amazing woman in her role as a box owner and positive influencer in the fitness community in Clarksville, Tennessee, as well as a nutrition expert and athlete. I stalked her on Instagram and Facebook. I attended her events. I wondered what it was like to be her friend. Every word I ever heard her say was encouraging and real. There seemed to be no drama there — just someone who was trying her best.
It is her absolute, unquestionable authenticity that made her dynamic and respected. She was never too cool for anyone, never too fit, never too much an expert. She was comfortable in her body. She put in the hard work, and the results were visible.
She announced decisions like deciding to have breast implants removed. I regularly walked away from my “liposuction” searches with her in mind. If she didn’t need that, neither did I. I never saw her treat her personal programming as some sort of miracle cure — just consistency day after day, counting “macros” and doing her best.
“Consistency,” she would tell me later, “is key.”
Unlike Paleo, macro counting looks less at what is in the food and more at a balance of how much each macro — protein, carbs and fat — you are eating. I had tried it before here or there, but was lost in the woods on how much of each to consume. I needed a guide, someone with patience for my fretting.
I’m a rule-follower. If I could get someone to tell me exactly what to do, I knew I could do it.
I’m sure there are other coaches out there like Nicole, but Nicole is the who I found at the moment I needed her. I got on her waiting list for one-on-one nutrition coaching from afar. When she had an opening last March, she walked me through the art of macros, hand-held as I worried over and over about doing it right and guided me through the process.
(She’s probably reading this. Hiiiii Nicole. Thanks for not once client-firing me.)
Every single day she told me what levels to eat. For the most part, I obeyed.
Twenty-five pounds fell off. Each day was its own battle, full of the minutia of deciding to, yes, stick to it, and no, not eat four animal cracker cookies just because they were sitting there looking like they’d be super tasty with coffee. There were also times of big decisions — like the retreat I went to where I ordered salad off the menu instead of eating the provided pizza. But for the most part it was a matter of choosing, day by day, to make good decisions instead of bad ones.
And suddenly I was happy with what I saw in the mirror for the first time, well, ever. I step on a scale today and every single time still blink at the number in disbelief. Who even knew I had 25 pounds to lose? And I’m doing things at the gym that were impossible last year. It’s amazing how much easier things are when you are 25 pounds lighter. I’m proud of what I can do. And I’m grateful – so grateful – for the help getting here.
Over the summer and my many adventures around Alaska I struggled with the consistency. And in the last few weeks it’s gotten even harder. I’ve added more work to my plate, and let my focus slide from how I feel every day to what I’m producing. Let’s be honest: balance has never been my strong point. When I focus on production instead of feeling, I battle comfort eating every moment of every day.
The lessons of these last seven months with Nicole are clear. They say “you are what you eat,” but what I find to be true instead is that you feel how you fuel.
Good fueling isn’t a matter of having time, it’s a matter of wanting time. In all areas of my life time management long ago ceased to be my problem. I have all the time in the world for the things I want or need to do.
Now it’s about energy balance.
When I burn my brain power on other things I let the most important tasks of my day, eating and sleeping, have the least focus. Without a plan for them I sabotage myself by eating junk, which impacts how well I sleep, how good I feel and how effectively I use my time.
I don’t define myself by a number on the scale. I learned not to do that a long time ago. But I do define myself by how I feel in my own body. Strong? Sexy? Fast? Bloated? Slow? Tired? All of those things are influenced by what I put inside me.
It’s been seven months, and my time with Nicole has come to an end. I’m trying to not feel like I’m quitting, so much as going on to step two. She’s sending me out in to the world to do this fueling my body for success thing on my own.
And I won’t lie: I’m scared. What if the flat tire comes back? What if all of my hard work just goes away?
Nicole promises me that if I feel like I’m failing, I can come crawling back for help. I’m totally going to take her up on that.
For now, however, I’m going to focus on the successes, focus on the things I know work and the behaviors and habits to which I know I must devote energy.
I’ve got this … right?