Between the years of 2006 and 2010, I lost and gained the same 20 lbs roughly a dozen times, as a figure competitor and fitness model. I had distinct “on season” and “off season,” times where I vacillated between strict deprivation and then a food-free-for-all, respectively.
When I quit competing and then over the next year, grew to the point of misery over food obsession, food prep and tons of cardio, I had an “aha” moment. It was after 6 months of strict dieting for a series of shoots, and I was finally done. I was depleted, mentally and physically exhausted and had a single thought:
I can’t do this anymore. There will never be another show to “lean out” for, and I refuse to ever diet like crazy for shoots again, so I need to find a way to eat and exercise that I can do forever without blowing up.
Basically. And as terrifying as that was at first, it was also a relief. I could finally take my time and figure this maintenance thing once and for all.
And in 2011, I started giving myself the benefit of the doubt and gave myself permission to not have to be perfect with eating. Instead, I allowed myself small less-than-ideal foods that helped satisfy me without having to go over the top with treats and cheats. Things like protein bars, shakes, bacon, a sprinkle of cheese or dollop of guacamole, homemade nut breads, sugar-free frozen yogurt, etc.
Are these things “ideal?” Would I eat them on a competition diet? No. But, if the alternative is expecting perfection with my eating to only inevitably overindulge later, so what.
I’ll choose less-than-ideal every time over the deprive-then-binge cycle.
This was a huge mental shift for me. There would be no time at which I would ever be able to eat freely again, if I wanted to not blow up. I wouldn’t have a show in a few months to prep for. No physique goals in sight.
These things scared me because I didn’t know how to walk the moderation line. I didn’t understand balance. But I had to start somewhere, so I did and I just started practicing, with zero expectations or idea what I was doing. I wasn’t eating 100% clean, but I also wasn’t eating everything I wanted either.
And over time, it became easier and easier to resist the balls-out cheat meals. To my surprise, I didn’t need them like I used to because I didn’t feel all that deprived, ever. And over time, my obsession with food became less and less to the point that now I hardly think about it because a moderate approach is now habit. And habits, by definition are effortless. But they also require some work up front :)
If you are like I was between the years 2006 and 2010, you are probably saying, “Yeah, yeah, that’s great Jill, that you found something that works for you. But I could never do that.” That’s honestly exactly where I was then too, so I get it. I do. It feels like an insurmountable climb to the top of the moderation mountain.
And if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t really like the concept of “moderation,” right? It’s for grandmothers and those who “can’t hack it.” I get that too–used to be my mentality.
And though moderation is not sexy or hardcore, I’ll take 90% clean 365 days a year over clean Monday thru Thursday and then eat-everything-in-sight Friday to Sunday EVERY TIME. Because that’s what we’re talking about–the alternative is crash dieting. The alternative is “all or nothing” … which we know, always ends up being NOTHING.
So in this way, can you see that maintaining your weight fairly effortlessly using a more moderate approach can be a success?
Especially in a society where you almost have to try to not gain weight as much as you have to strive to lose. It’s that easy to get caught up in the deprive-and-binge dieting culture.
You don’t need to losing weight round the clock to be a success. How about doing enjoyable, sustainable exercise and practicing moderation to the point that cheats, treats and sweets barely register on your radar?
Because this has to do with exercise too, doesn’t it? Hours at the gym daily is unsustainable. Ain’t nobody got time for hours of cardio and long-ass weight workouts. Sorry, but if you’re using exercise to maintain your weight, then you’re already in an unsustainable place.
I posted this on Facebook (below), and it resonated with you guys. Exercise is not a weight management tool. It can add to the equation, but relying on exercise in order to “burn off” your cheats and sweets is eventually not going to work anymore–either because you can’t sustain it or because your metabolism no likey over time. Nutrition is what matters most:
Ok, so time for some honesty. I’ve maintained my weight and “look” for the last 4 years, doing everything I write about in this blog every week. I don’t obsess about exercise, I do sustainable training that is intense, with a weight-training focus. I refuse to spend hours at the gym. Because my exercise is less, my hunger and cravings are also less. Yes, that’s correct. And I know you are rolling your eyes right now–“Well, Jill, must be nice for you, but you don’t understand how hungry I get! I need to exercise or else I will blow up!” I get that too–I believed the same thing … until I finally, finally took a chance and pulled back on my hours of cardio slowly and found that yes, my appetite did indeed decrease also. A miracle!
So, in the spirit of maintenance, here are my progress pics, July 2014 to July 2105:
July 2014 to July 2015
It is competition lean? No. But I’ll take this any day over the alternative, which is vacillating between being bloated as hell and then being obsessed with food and cardio, depriving myself at every turn. No thanks!
So, as you can see, there’s a lot of self-trust that needs to happen in the fat loss process. You need to take a risk ON YOURSELF. You have to believe that you can figure it out. You have to wrap your head around giving yourself the TIME and SPACE to struggle through it. And come out on the other side with a greater understanding of you and what works (and what doesn’t) for YOU.
Besides, the old way will always be there. Cardio will always be there for you. Crash diets will always be there if you need them (you won’t). So why not take a chance and try a new way?? One in which you are in the driver’s seat. Where you take 100% ownership over your process. Where you get up close and personal with your own metabolism, personal preferences and stop trying to white-knuckle your way through some random coach’s “meal plan.” No, no, no. Noooooooooo. :)
You are in charge. Own that, and you will eventually achieve mastery when it comes to your results.
Some tweetables for you: