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Planning on Being Awesome This Year?

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First of all: Happy New Year!  I don’t know that I’m really huge on partying to welcome in the New Year or anything like that, but I love any opportunity to reflect on the past and make goals and plans for the future.  I do this regularly.  The start of every semester I like to make a list of goals and an accompanying set of plans to help me work on things that I could be doing better at.

I’m sure a lot of you have goals that include getting more fit or losing weight.  And those are really great goals to have.  My health/fitness/overall wellness journey began with a New Year’s resolution to lose weight.  It’s been five years since then and I’ve learned a lot.

Most importantly, I’ve learned that a goal without a plan is just wishful thinking.  For example, I have a goal of someday hiking to Havasupai Falls.  However, because that isn’t a goal that I plan on accomplishing within the next year or so,  I don’t have a plan yet.  However, I do have a pressing goal of hitting 20% body fat by June.  So here is what my plan looks like:

-Get my body fat measured (in the BodPod on campus) every three months. Making an appointment on Wednesday.

-Eat clean (Paleo) 13 out of every 14 days.

-Be mindful of starch and fruit intake, especially on non-workout days.

-CrossFit at least 4 times a week.

There are other parts to this plan that are more secondary goals (work on mobility of one body part after each WOD, go to Endurance weekly, etc.)  And I did make other goals that have their own plans (audition to be a Disney Princess, improve my grades, etc).  But the important part is that I wrote it all down.  That always makes me feel more accountable to myself.  And I wrote down the things that I have to do on a regular basis to help me succeed.

Anyone can have a goal, but that’s like saying “I’m going to Hawaii”.  Making a plan is like buying the tickets to Hawaii.  And then when you achieve your goal, that’s when you’re in Hawaii. (Consequently, I wish I could afford to go to Hawaii as a reward for hitting 20% body fat.  Anyone rich want to take me?)

And for those of you who want to lose weight, I want to impart to you the wisdom that I have learned over the last 5 years.  If I had to give you only one piece of advice (other than making a plan), it would be this: DO NOT underestimate the importance of weight training. I did for four years, and I wish I had gotten started a lot sooner.

In my first couple of years, I went from a size 18 to a size 12 and from 215 to 150-ish pounds.  And I stayed consistent at that weight and size for a couple of years after that.  At the beginning of 2011, I decided I was ready to really embark on my quest for lady abs.  I did p90x and a few other home-based workout programs.  I started tweaking the last bits of junk out of my diet (everything processed had to go, even if it was whole grain — this eventually made the transition to Paleo a lot easier).  And then in August, Chris got me to join CrossFit.  In the last year, I’ve only lost about 10 pounds.  But I’ve gone from a size 12 to a size 8.  Sometimes a 6.  My body confidence is way higher, my pudge is way smaller, and my posture is improved.  I not only look better, but I feel amazing in my own skin.

And I am now convinced that whoever told girls that weight training would make them look manly was probably lying to someone they wanted to stay fat.  I am also convinced that thin girls who say things like “I’m fat” often feel that way because they lack the muscle to make their bodies look the way they want.  Looking fit is a combination of losing fat AND building muscle.  I neglected the muscle for so long because I felt like I was still too chubby to have to worry about it, but worrying about it is what helped me get to the point I wanted to get to.  Sure, I still have a handful of body fat percentage points to drop, but I can actually see the faint outlines of my lady abs starting to emerge.  My shoulders and arms look toned.  My legs look killer in high heels.    But in no way do I look manly.

Gratuitous picture of my arm. But seriously. Last year, that did not look like that.

So, basically my whole point is this: if you want to lose weight, you can do that any number of ways.  If you want to feel great about your body and you want to look your best: weights.  You don’t have to do any particular program.  Pick up a copy of the Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises if you’re new and don’t have a lot of resources, it’s an excellent place to start.  And they have a lot of 6-12 week programs, so you can switch up your routine a lot.  Of course, if you have the money and a nearby affiliate, you could always do CrossFit. Or you could borrow your friends copy of P90X.  Whatever you plan on doing, make a plan.  Pick up weights.  Don’t be afraid to lift as heavy as you can.  Practice good form.  Eat enough protein.  For that matter, eat enough food.  You can’t starve your way into a nice body.  You have to feed it.  And, oh yeah, did I mention that you should lift weights?  Because you really, really should.

You Never Deserve Cake/Cookies/Chocolate. NEVER. Seriously.

I decided today that if I had to wait for every time I had a coherent thought or priceless piece of advice to post a new blog entry, this blog would look. . . well. . . about like it does.  As in, I haven’t posted for two months.  So all I have today are some random thoughts about the Biggest Loser competition at work that is coming to a close next Friday and my long-standing issue with the “I deserve it” philosophy.

We’ll start with the competition at work.  I can’t speak for how everyone else who is participating is doing, but I’ve really enjoyed having some kind of short-term end goal and motivation to keep me on my toes.  When you have a looming and untimeable goal like “I want lady abs”, it’s easy to cheat yourself and slack off because you don’t really have rules or parameters.  On the other hand, when your end goal is “all I wanna do is *bang, bang, bang, band* and a-*click, ching!* and take ya money” (thanks to MIA for the mission statement there), and you have two months to work as hard as possible, you have not only motivation but a marker that says: someday, this will end.  I will not be doing this day in and day out forever.

Well, at least that’s how it started.  And now?  I have no desire to throw out the hard work I’ve done or the habits I’ve established by mustering my willpower and saying no to heaven only knows how much delicious-looking treat food.  So what began as a short-term quest to reign in my diet to a near-perfect state only to win money to buy new clothes is now an awesome habit.  That just so happens to be helping me get closer to that abstract goal of getting my lady abs.  Win win win.

I can’t say if I’ll win the competition.  My starting body fat was likely one of the very lowest to begin with, so in some ways that put me at a disadvantage.  But this I do know:  I have worked hard. I have eaten better than ever before in my life.  I have been prioritizing sleep.  I even joined CrossFit with my boyfriend (we’ll be addressing this at length in another post), which I never thought I would ever do.  I have had days where I feel like I could do this every day for the rest of forever.  And I have had days where I spent hours on foodgawker crying over pictures of cake.  Luckily, I’m doing a lot more of the former the further into the competition we get.

So what’s the biggest thing I’ve learned?  I’ve learned that people sell themselves short.  A lot.  I know girls who have no problem getting enough exercise, but they absolutely do not control their eating.  I’ve been doing it for a long time.  I’ve been a relatively healthy eater for quite some time now, but it’s amazing what the difference is between being a “relatively healthy” eater and a “nearly optimal” eater.  I still have more things I could clean up, but I’ve cleaned up a lot over the last couple of months and the results have been so much better than before.  Just a little fine-tuning has gone a long way.  I feel better. I look better. My skin is nicer.  I even smell better, which is totally weird.  (Well. . . except for after a workout.  I have never smelled/looked worse in my entire life than I do after some CrossFit workouts — I assume that means I’m doing it right).

And here’s the thing that really gets me: most people tell themselves that they deserve the crap that is holding them back because they’ve worked so hard.  Or because they’re so stressed out.  Or because they’ve had a rough day.  You deserve it?  Really?  You deserve to keep yourself from seeing progress because you want to put something delicious in your mouth, chew a couple of times, and then swallow?  Seriously?

Let me tell you something: you don’t deserve it.  Nope.  Never.

What you deserve is to see the results of the work you put in at the gym.  What you deserve is to reap the benefits of all of the rest of your healthy eating choices, instead of having just done all that work to create a buffer.  What you deserve is to make progress, not to barely break even or to sabotage yourself.  You deserve to feel better, and that ice cream is not going to do it for you.  I promise.

So what you really deserve is to accomplish your goals.  You deserve to feel healthy and strong and fit and amazing.  In short, you deserve so much more than dessert.

At any rate, next Friday we’ll find out if I win.  But I already know that my hard work has paid off based on the way I feel and on the way my sexiness has definitely increased over the last 7 or so weeks.  But to win the cash would just be the icing on the cake.  (Mmmm. . . cake).