Today I was getting a little frustrated with what I perceive as my "backsliding" this year. This time last year, I'd completed a Whole30 and a Whole14, participated in the CrossFit Open, and felt pretty slim and fit. Here's what I looked like then:
What you don't see in this picture is that I was totally stuck in the extreme mentality of feast vs. famine. I'd do a Whole30/14, and then indulge afterwards. I'd feel guilty I wasn't able to stick with such extreme restriction - if you are unfamiliar, the Whole30 only allows you to eat vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts, and fats - and I'd go back on, only to repeat the cycle again.
What seems so obvious to me now is that what I was doing wasn't working. It wasn't sustainable. The cycle drove me crazy and made me feel bad about myself for not being able to be "perfect" all the time.
So then I decided to do the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating Program, to help me stop with the cyclical disorder eating. And it sort of worked -- by having a longer window of time to look at these patterns, I realized a couple of things:
- Real, sustainable change comes over very long periods of time. I always thought this was bullshit, but it's totally true. When we are in the pain of low self-esteem and body dysmorphia, we want change to come right away. We need to fix it. Right now. But real change takes a long time to happen. The weight I lost on Whole30? It came back. But the muscle I put on in the last 2 years of CrossFit hasn't gone away. And my changed body composition has stuck around, even though I've been injured the last two weeks and not eating my best.
- Small habits have a better chance of being successful. Truly. If I only have to do one thing, I'm more likely to do it. What became so overwhelming about PN was that you start with just one habit at a time, fine, and then add incrementally, and while that works pretty well for awhile, eventually I felt a bit suffocated by all the things I was expected to do each day.
- Diets are diets. Even with PN. There's this secret, which is that to effect real change -- like the dramatic kind you see on marketing brochures -- you have to thoroughly and dramatically change your life and habits. To be a new person, you have to become one. Sounds simplistic, but I didn't get it. I kept looking for a happy medium, but I wasn't willing to accept that to get a really different body, I would have to commit to a kind of restriction and scrutiny that I'd never experienced before. More on this later.
I've been defining success as who I was last year, but in thinking about it, that place wasn't so great. Sure, I was probably a bit lighter and leaner, but I wasn't as strong. I was hella injured with a shoulder impingement, and I could hardly lift a bare barbell in a strict press. Just 33 lbs, and I was yelping in pain. Whereas this year, I PRed my strict press at around ~60 lbs, I do believe. And I can nearly do a full push-up with perfect form -- another goal that felt way out of my league last year.
I was also ill at least every other month in 2013. Sounds crazy, but I had multiple colds, the flu, and a nasty bout of strep throat. Coincidence? I don't think so. I think crazy binge/restrict cycles can really tax the body and sap it of strength and immunity. And remember too that I was going to CrossFit 2-3x per week, and playing competitive roller derby, so 2-3 skating practices a week. I spent a lot of 2013 tired, sore, and sick.
So was I trimmer? Yes. But was I fitter? Up for debate.