So this morning I decided to weigh myself for the first time since long before Christmas…Okay little disclosure I have been rather…er relaxed…about my eating recently and just enjoying myself over the festive period (as we all should). I thought it was probably time to just check things weren’t getting out of hand! I use scales that calculate you bodyfat, muscle and water percentage aswell as bodyweight. So my weight had increased by 1.6lb, but far, far more importantly my bodyfat percentage has reduced by 0.6%!!! Of course this isn’t a huge amount by any means but the fact that I have gained weight but dropped fat means that my gains are MUSCLE!
There was a time in my life where the number on the scales basically governed how I felt about myself entirely. If the number increased by the odd pound or two (which is an entirely normal fluctuation, especially for women whose hormones can affect water weight etc) I would instantly feel huge and grotesque. Extreme I know but it’s true. When I looked in the mirror I felt that I actually looked bigger and let’s face it a couple of pounds is hardly going to be even noticeable. What then followed was then a period of cutting my calories and lots of exercise. I relished in feelings of hunger, for me being hungry meant I was in control and getting closer to my goals. I remember being terrified of carbohydrates. Imagine being scared of bread, potatoes and pasta?! Utterly ridiculous to me now but I thought eating them was going to make me put on loads of weight. Now I love my carbs, they give me the energy I need to workout and take care of my son. They are fuel for my body.
Of course starving yourself is only going to lead to binge eating eventually and that’s exactly what I would do. Most evenings I would consume loads of sugary foods, usually chocolate or ice-cream or sweets. These binges would make up the majority of my days calorie quota. So most of what I ate was ’empty’ calories, completely devoid of any nutrients. Then I would feel guilty and disgusting…but just keep repeating these actions. I was trapped in an unhealthy, miserable cycle. I loved food but I was scared of it at the same time, and my entire self-worth purely dependent on what I weighed and being ‘thin’.
Being pregnant was a massive turning point for me. My body was going to get bigger, there was nothing I could do about that, I was growing a human, and for once I was actually happy about it! I was very fortunate that I completely went off of sugary foods when I was pregnant. Instead I craved salty and savory foods; tomato juice and tomatoes, vegetables, steak and salt and vinegar crisps…oh and alcohol free beer. (I’d never liked beer before…think this was an indication I was having a boy!) I was in a healthy mindset during pregnancy, I ate well but I ate healthy. Probably the most healthily I’ve ever eaten actually, and I continued to workout and keep fit.
I think having a child means you have a new-found respect for your body. Watching the changes it goes through in pregnancy to how it recovers. It’s ability to feed and nourish your child…how it allows you to survive on no sleep! Since I have had my son my priorities have completely changed. No longer do I have an obsession with ‘skinny’ I now want to be stronger and more toned. The fact I am breastfeeding means I don’t restrict calories at all, I just make sure the majority of the ones I eat are healthy calories. I think having amazing fitness role models like Tammy Hembrow, Alexia Clark and Kayla Itsines, who all have absolutely incredible bodies means our perceptions of what is attractive and desirable for a womans body is (finally) starting to change. These women don’t starve themselves they just exercise regularly, especially resistance training. If you want proof that lifting weights isn’t going to make you ‘manly’ just google anyone of these stunning women. None of them are ‘bulky’ or ‘manly’. By incorporating resistance training into your exercise regime, you are going to build some muscle. Muscle is leaner than fat so by replacing the fat on your body with muscle you are going to look slimmer and more defined. But you may not weigh that much less and you could even weigh more (like me) as you build muscle. There is a common statement that “muscle weighs more than fat” this isn’t strictly true. A pound of fat is a pound of fat and a pound of muscle is a pound of muscle. But muscle is DENSER than fat so if you actually had that pound of fat next to that pound of muscle then the pound of muscle would look considerably smaller. It would also be firmer this is why when we lose fat and build muscle we also lose some of our ‘jiggle’ and generally tone up our bodies. Another bonus is that muscle requires more calories that fat to sustain itself, which means that by building more muscle your bodies ‘base metabolic rate’ (amount of calories your body requires when doing nothing just to sustain itself) increases…meaning you can eat more and still look lean. Winner.
I would just like to say to anyone trapped in an unhealthy eating cycle, ruled by the scales. STOP. Just stop. Start resistance training, if you prefer cardio, fine. Cardio will burn fat and calories but I personally believe that resistance training combined with some cardio is the best way to go. Resistance training for me is a far more sustainable way to get fit and healthy and an easier regime to stick to in my opinion. And either buy some scales that measure bodyfat percentage (because that’s the only figure you should be looking at) or just measure your body. That’s right get a tape measure and measure your arms, waist, bum and thighs. Take some photographs from the front side and behind in a bikini or underwear. You don’t have to show anybody. Then when you have been working out for a couple of weeks or a month repeat the process. Sometimes we don’t see our progress in the mirror and if we only focus on the number on the scale we can get disheartened and give up. Photographs will show progress. Most of all if you do have a ‘weak’ moment and devour an entire tub of ice cream, that’s okay! Just start again immediately after, and make the next day healthy again. Good luck to everyone on their own fitness journey!