What I gained, helping others lose

Published: Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 11:12 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 3:46 p.m. CDT

I always have been what you might call an exercise addict.  I even went so far as to make exercise my job, and in the process learned more about my own insecurities by helping others deal with theirs.

Growing up with two older brothers meant a great deal of teasing and tormenting.  While I never was a chubby kid, as I got older I quickly realized that I couldn’t eat foot-long subs and entire boxes of mac ‘n cheese like my brothers.  If I did, my siblings were right there to point out exactly where my healthy appetite “ended up.”  Neither was I blessed with the same genes as my grandmother, who could eat pastries for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never break 100 pounds.

I always have had to work hard to eat right and stay in shape.  Sometimes I worked harder than others.  Sometimes I thought I was eating right, but ended up doing more harm than good. I struggled with fad diets and extreme exercise routines.  I pushed myself to workout through injuries and illness.  I would stress out if I missed a day at the gym or beat myself up if I overindulged. I was a slave to how many calories I burned, the number on the scale and the size of my jeans.

Eventually, I found the right combination and balance of reasonable, but effective workouts, eating right without depriving myself and a love for my body, despite its flaws.  I made this my life, not a temporary fix.

Don’t get me wrong, I still am at the gym or doing some sort of exercise more than the average person, but I feel healthier emotionally, not just physically, about my exercise and diet regimen.

In the last year-and-a-half, my husband made the conscious decision to change his lifestyle, and in the end lost almost 70 pounds.  Most people assume I was the one who pushed him to adopt a new way of eating and exercise routine.  In reality, he was the one who finally said, “Enough is enough,” and decided to change his ways. He struggled a great deal for the first several months, even though he was seeing significant results.

He agonized over his workouts, portions, milligrams of sodium, whether something had cheese sprinkled on it and even told me once that bread was evil.  Moderation is not his strong suit. He is an “all or nothing” kind of guy, so cheating was not an option for him. 

He pushed himself to the point of injury in his workouts and would get downright angry and depressed if he had to take a break.  He weighed himself twice a week and fretted over even a pound of weight gain over a weekend.

It was then that I realized that what I wished for him. It was to gain what I had over the years; the ability to cut myself some slack.  I rarely weigh myself.  I gave up obsessing over what my heart rate monitor said at the end of a workout.  Instead of working to burn what I ate, I learned to eat to fuel my workouts. I gave my body rest when it was needed and realized that as long as I woke up every morning, alive and healthy, that was most important.

As a group fitness instructor and athlete, I see a lot of intense and competitive people.  I have that spirit too, and I can relate. In fact, there are times I feel like I am looking in the mirror.  That mirror has given me the ability to look long and hard at what I see and what I really want to achieve.

I love to exercise. I love looking and feeling good.  I love being healthy. It makes me happy.  Beating myself up, getting depressed or stressed out defeats the purpose of leading a healthy lifestyle.  Whenever I find those feelings creeping up on me, I know it is time to take a step back and reevaluate my goals. 

I know the road to physical fitness is long and finding balance is difficult. I know maintenance is the hardest part and it takes a lot of discipline and perseverance to stay on track.  My only wish is that we can all achieve balance in that journey so at the end of the day, we can all like who we are and what we see in the mirror.

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