10 Health and Fitness Lifestyle Truths
In the very first blog post I ever wrote, Fitness is a Journey, I detailed my health and fitness quest, documenting my struggles and lessons learned along the way (still on that journey, by the way). Whether you’ve decided to change your lifestyle for the better, are struggling with keeping it that way, or have always been committed, there’s no denying, the struggle is real.
One of the most important lessons you’ll learn is that dieting is only temporary; to make permanent changes you have to change your life. I didn’t include this in the “10 truths” because it is the biggest truth, the mother of all truths, if you will. Once you realize this, accept it, and commit yourself to adopting a healthy lifestyle, all the other “truths” are bumps in the road. Let’s begin.
1. You Will Get Bored
Running might be your thing. Or Crossfit. Or high intensity/high impact training. Whatever it is, you will get bored. It might be just for a week, for a few months, or forever. When it happens you’re probably going to panic because the one activity that you could actually stand doing day in and out, or the activity that helped you get the best results, is the last thing you want to do today and oh no! now you’re going to get fat. That’s not going to happen, you’re not going to let that happen. Take that time to discover something new or prove to yourself that yes, you can get enjoyment out of something you’ve been lifting your nose up to for awhile. Sure, you might prove yourself right and hate every minute of it, but who knows, you could also surprise yourself and get unexpected results or find an activity you otherwise wouldn’t have known you were so good at.
The same truth applies to food. You’re going to have days when you cannot tolerate the thought of ever having to eat another orange veggie. This is going to pass, but until it does, you should take this opportunity to step out of your food comfort zone. This is why you see new “super foods” advertised in the media so often- even the healthiest of the healthies get bored and reinvent eating. I challenge you to stop crying about the emotional and sensory trauma you suffered from the way your mom prepared your brussel sprouts. Put your Google or your Pinterest to good use and try something you’re afraid of in a way you might actually like. Because, you might actually like it!
2. You Are Dehydrated
I’m psychic, go drink water now. Trust me.
Just kidding, I mean about being psychic, you are dehydrated, this I know. Anyone remember the 8×8 rule? The average human needs to drink about 8 8oz. glasses of water per day (for those of you that are bad at numbers, that’s 8 cups, or a half gallon). Hydration probably isn’t too much of an issue for someone who eats healthy but remains sedentary because they are getting adequate hydration from their foods (primarily fruits and veggies). If you are working out on a daily basis and breaking a sweat, you’ll need to compensate. I’m not instructing you to drink a half gallon per day, especially if you’re getting a ton of water in your diet, but pay attention. When you are dehydrated you will feel bad and you may not even realize it. It can make your stomach feel crampy and bloated, worsen constipation, and you’ll notice it in your skin and overall appearance as well. Some argue that coffee counts as water because it’s primarily made from the stuff. However, it acts as a diuretic so you’ll actually be flushing a good bit out. For those coffee addicts, I’d start with replacing one cup of coffee per day with water and go from there.
3. Abs Come From Food, Not Exercise
Alright, Abs come from exercise, yes. But, you will never get to see them if you don’t clean up your diet. You might have abs of steel, truly, and never get to see and feel your results if you’re complimenting your dedicated intense workout regimen with crappy food choices. This doesn’t just apply to abs, we are talking all over toning – arms, back, legs, and butt too. I’ve read this “truth” in a million articles, and unfortunately, it’s true. If you are balancing out your healthy choices with too much partying (sorry, I’m talking about booze here), giving yourself free reign to eat crap because you’ve worked out, counting calories but not paying attention to what types of food you’re shoveling in, snacking too much on processed and high sugar/salt foods, and generally outweighing the good clean stuff with the bad- you won’t get to see your “results”. I challenge you to derive a significant portion of your diet from fresh unprocessed fruits, veggies, lean meats, grains, and diary for a few weeks and experience the difference. There will be a difference, and you’ll thank me for it.
4. People Will Criticize Your Lifestyle
Prepare yourself. You’ll likely experience a whole wide range of nonsense you never expected. You will suddenly be deemed “too skinny”, “insane”, and “obsessed”. People will criticize your appearance, probably more than they ever did before, and you’ll likely end up (momentarily) feeling worse about yourself. You’ll be in the best shape of your life and people will tell you that you look “sickly”. They will scoff and make you feel ridiculous if you choose not to have cake at an office party. All sorts of unwanted opinions will start flying in your direction. You’ll hear about how so-and-so’s husband doesn’t think women should have big muscles. How a piece of pie won’t kill you. How you’re vain for making the gym a priority. Scrutiny is unavoidable, especially when you make big life changes and even more so if they occur suddenly. Acknowledge that this can be a shock to some and intimidating to others- do not let yourself feel ashamed. Surround yourself with those that share your interests and are encouraging.
5. Injuries Are Inevitable
There was a period of time when all I wanted to do was run. I ignored my aches and pains and continued to run every single day. I specifically remember the first time I ever ran 10 miles. It felt so good and by then I was already addicted to the “runner’s high”. Just a few weeks before I could hardly run 3 miles and now 10 felt effortless. Instead of giving myself time to rest and recover I went out and ran 11 miles the very next day and could hardly walk afterwards. I didn’t worry, I gave myself two days of rest and went back out – except I couldn’t. I could hardly get through a mile without extreme knee pain. This was a year and a half ago, and despite trying to “rehab” myself, I am still unable to go out and run more than 2-3 miles without unbearable pain. The pain is always there- when I’m laying, sitting, standing, walking, and working out. It’s tolerable most days, but there are some days when I can’t ignore it. I’m probably never going to be able to run again – and this was really hard to accept.
You will get injured. Maybe not in the same way that I did. But you will pull a groin, or hurt your back, or sprain an ankle. You need to pay attention to any pain and get treatment. This may only mean you need a few days of rest and stretching, but in more severe cases you may need physical therapy and rehabilitation. If you are having pain or sustain an injury – learn from my errors and go see your doctor.
6. You Will Fall Off The Bandwagon And Feel Like A Fraud
Last Halloween I consumed at least 4 entire bags of candy corn myself (it was probably more than 4). I could not stop. At Christmastime I wanted to enjoy the season with friends and family and this didn’t leave much time for exercise. With all of the holiday parties it was hard to also maintain my usual diet. I gained the 5-10lbs that many people predictably do at this time. I knew in my heart this was only temporary but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was letting myself down. Additionally, I felt like I was letting those down who look to me for motivation and inspiration. I couldn’t help but feel ashamed because eating 4 bags of candy corn isn’t a characteristic of someone who is committed to a healthy lifestyle. I felt awful, like a fraud.
Except, guess what? The truth is, you have nothing prove to anyone. The only person you are responsible to is yourself. Nobody is giving you a list of rules that have to be followed like commandments. In fact, if you hold yourself to strict guidelines, you are more likely to fail. Being healthy is a lifestyle, it’s not a game. You can’t lose if you truly believe in how you live. Eating 4 bags of candy corn is going to set you back a little (and make you feel like crap) but it doesn’t redefine what you stand for. You are human, you get to make your own choices, and you should only hold yourself accountable to practicing what you preach. And I hope what you are preaching is that your decisions should be made based on what makes you happy (and yes, candy corn makes me very very happy).
7. It May Negatively Affect Your Health
I’ve already covered the inevitable injuries and bodily aches and pains associated with any repeated exercise and now I will cover some of the other terrible things that can happen after adopting a health and fitness-centered lifestyle. I’ll begin at the top – your teeth. Frequent exercise increases your risk of broken teeth and dental caries. In the last 2 years I have broken 2 teeth and needed a root canal on another, despite proper dental care. Most experts explain this phenomenon by blaming “dry mouth”. With excessive exercise we are prone to dehydration and decreased salivation resulting in dry mouth. Our saliva is very important in providing protection to our teeth and chronic dry mouth results in dental erosion. I’ll refer you back to truth #2 so you understand just how important this one is.
I’ve already mentioned that dehydration can cause constipation. However, frequent vigorous exercise can cause other gastrointestinal complaints, like diarrhea. It is speculated that this is the result of motion (jumping, moving about) stimulating peristalsis and the need for a sudden trip to the bathroom (caffeine and other pre-workout exercise supplements can also increase gut motility in some people, resulting in diarrhea). It is this same vigorous jumping/thrusting/heaving movements that can worsen reflux in some. Most Physicians will tell their patients that weight loss will help decrease heartburn symptoms, but I’ve proven the opposite to be true in myself. As someone who never had problems with this prior to introducing frequent high intensity workouts into my life, I now suffer quite severely. Some will have even worse symptoms, like vomiting. The changes to your diet can also cause symptoms. Specifically, a rapid increase in fiber (vegetables and whole grains) can cause excessive bloating and cramping.
Let’s move on to some of the dirtier stuff. I’m talking yeast infections. This mostly applies to women – specifically in areas that are tightly covered and prone to sweating (such as the vagina, under the breasts, and in any larger skin folds). Yeast infections aside, chaffing from frequent rubbing and sweating is also common in these areas after introducing new repetitive exercise.
The last thing I’ll mention is a serious condition called the “female athlete triad”. It’s comprised of three conditions – inadequate intake of nutrition, amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), and bone loss (which can lead to osteoporosis). This isn’t the appropriate forum to discuss such as serious condition but it’s worth mentioning because it is possible to “overdo” exercise and to be too restrictive with your diet. The side effects are severe and can be life-threatening.
8. You Will Begin To Judge Others
When you notice this happening, try to reel yourself back in. You didn’t just wake up one day suddenly an expert in health and fitness. You still aren’t. And even if you are, the way you live your life isn’t the way everyone needs to live theirs. You should be supportive and offer advice when someone comes to you asking for it. You should be enthusiastic and advocate for good nutrition and regular exercise, but you should not walk around diagnosing people with “laziness” and “bad eating habits” and rattle off your treatment recommendations without being asked. I know this sudden desire to do so actually comes from a good place. You feel and look a thousand times better. You can do so many things you couldn’t before and you want others to have access to this way of life. Your intentions are good, but they are unnecessary and can actually be hurtful and judgmental. You focus on you.
9. Everyone Is Cheating
Everyone. All those people who inspired you- the marathon runners, ShaunT’s crew in INSANITY, all those lifters at the gym – they are all cheating. And you probably are too. That’s the reality. Whether it’s espresso, pre-workout, or caffeine chews, everyone is getting a little bump up on their energy, endurance, and physical capacity through some enhancer. It’s up to you to determine if you want to use one of these. Be particularly careful and do your research when considering any of these products as not all of them are safe.
10. You Won’t Recognize Yourself
Two things will happen. First, your body will go through so many changes that you won’t recognize the person staring back at you in the mirror. As you drop weight and tone up you will notice changes in your physical appearance. These take a while to get used to. It’s fun and rewarding to watch some of the changes happen- you notice new curves, tone, and your entire body takes on a new landscape. You look different in clothing and you feel different. Your face changes too and you get to rediscover that. This is as challenging as it is exciting. It can be hard to identify with the new person you see in the mirror because you’ve previously seen yourself so differently. Many struggle with this. I’ll admit that I will probably always subconsciously view myself as the overweight girl I was for so long – it’s remarkably difficult to separate yourself from that way of thinking and begin to accept that you are no longer that person.
Additionally, you may not recognize yourself on the inside. You’ve taken on new priorities (health and fitness) and now choose to invest in things that make you feel better, happier, and have proven positive long-term outcomes. You plan your life and make decisions based on these priorities. You are equally proud and unfamiliar with this new developing side of you. There’s nothing scarier than learning new things about yourself- hang in there, I promise you deserve this.
Thank you for stopping by!
DISCLAIMER: the thoughts and ideas expressed
in this blog are my own and meant for inspiration
and should not be taken as medical advice.