At my current weight — 15-20 pounds less than my highest

Back in the day, I weighed 15-20 pounds more than I do now. I was 21 years old and had been stuck in a cycle of binging and little exercise.

I had read a Christian weight loss book called “The Weigh Down Workshop,” which emphasized simply, eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. The creator of the series maintained that you do not NEED to exercise to lose weight. If you simply listen to your body’s cues, you will naturally eat the fuel you need and you will naturally crave healthier foods once you make them available.

Me, in the middle, before weight loss.

Now, I do not disagree with her concept at it’s core. But as a 20-year-old trying to navigate out of an eating disorder and also someone who had a negative history with exercise in general, I kind of obsessed over that fact that I didn’t “need” to exercise to lose weight. So…I stopped exercising.

Needless to say, I got to my highest weight ever. I couldn’t get myself to “stop when I was full” most of them time…or even, “start when I was hungry.” I actually got to a point where I just wanted to accept being overweight instead of deal with the insanity of wanting to be skinny.

Me on the far right before losing weight

I watched the movie, “Real Women Have Curves” and tried to join the “accept myself” movement. I thought America Ferrera was pretty and was like…yeah, I can be this weight, it’s all good. I stopped trying to buy the smallest sizes possible and embraced the larger. The thing is, I NEEDED to accept myself before I could lose the weight. This movie kind of helped — this scene in particular:

But the acceptance of a larger body didn’t last long. If it were my natural state, it would have been different but I was overweight for a reason. I saw a photo of myself and couldn’t believe how big I looked. Compared to someone who is extremely overweight, I wasn’t that bad but I was definitely chubby and I didn’t like what I saw.

I decided the Weigh Down Workshop approach wasn’t working for me. I couldn’t just not exercise and be okay with it. I renewed my membership to the gym and began going consistently. This was the initial root of my running fascination.

Instead of focusing on a diet or a plan of some kinda — which would be overwhelming to someone as disorganized as myself — I just started going to the gym  regularly.

  • Just get there. Half the battle is getting out the door. You can’t think too hard about what you are going to do once you are there — or you may never get there. As Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.” 
  • Intervals & variation. If you told me I had to go to the gym and run on the treadmill for 3 miles or 30 minutes, it would sound soooo daunting. At the gym I went to there was a track. So I would do one mile on the tread, one the track. Makes it go so much faster! You can do the same with 10 minutes elliptical, 10 minutes treadmill, switch.

  • Do it no matter what. I had some of my worst binging moments during this time in my life. But for the first time, instead of waller in the depression the next day, I would workout no matter what. This really helped me make the connection between binge recovery and working up a sweat.

  • Exercise as your happy pill. When I thought about how good exercise made me feel — and how I didn’t want to binge eat after it, I knew it could be a “magic” tool for getting me ready and feeling good for a weekend night out. I started getting in runs after work and before a night out. This energized me and made me feel confident and happy. You can use this for all kinds of things — big speeches you have to give, a hot date, a new social activity — it is like a natural drug!

  • Plan workout dates or races. You won’t want to destroy your motivation to do a good job with a binge or bad eating habits the night before. This often STILL works for me. If I’ve got a workout or a long run planned on Saturday, I usually have more restraint on Friday nights.

I realize these are all tools for exercise — not diet. But I have learned a lot about how you can use exercise for your major benefit.

When I started incorporating these practices into my life, I lost weight. Because I had an eating issue, I chose not to focus on diet because I didn’t want to get obsessed with it. I lost about 15 pounds in probably 3-4 months when I started doing this. I have maintained (and then some) since 2003.

But exercising isn’t just about losing weight. And you won’t be nearly as successful if that’s all it is to you. It makes you feel able, strong, inspired — powerful. All the things you never think you can be watching TV on the couch come to life. The real you springs forth through your sweat glands.

In turn, your body responds. It sheds unwanted pounds, it clears out toxins, it renews your mind and refreshes your spirit.

Today, I love my body for the curves and cellulite and all — because I’m taking care of it. You don’t have to have curves to be a “real woman” but most women do — and as long as you are taking care of yourself, they are a-ok. 

Why aren’t you wearing your running shoes yet? Let’s go.

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