From skwigg's journal:
I went around in a circle with my own physique tweaking. I was into heavy lifting and clean eating and wanted to be lean and muscular like a fitness competitor. Then I felt too big and dude-like and decided I still wanted to be lean, but smaller and daintier, like a ballerina. Then I realized that as I'm approaching age 50 (holy crap!) being veins and tendons lean really doesn't contribute to a youthful appearance. So, then I wanted to be less lean but still small, like an actress. But I got hungry and bored, so I started eating more, had lots more energy, and resumed challenging strength training. I fell in love with being strong and having muscles again, but I also fell in love with eating ice cream. The muscles and the ice cream together provide a good balance where I'm curvy strong and not stringy strong. Now I'm happy. Ha!
Let me say first of all that most of the changes in these various stages were mostly in my own mind. It's not like you can dramatically change your physique with just a couple of diet or workout tweaks. It's more like you change your perception of your body and the process. Physical changes do happen but they're fairly subtle and you would need to point them out to most people. 😄
For my actress stage, I quit the gym and quit heavy strength training for about a year. I joined a Pilates studio and followed a vegan(ish) diet.
My big take-away from all of this turned out to be to just eat and train in a way I love and let my body do what it's going to do. What does not work is eating and training in ways I truly don't enjoy (calorie counting, clean eating, cardio, obsession) hoping to make my body look a certain way. Because if the methods suck, it never looks that way for long. --
Now, here's the elaborating on what I've learned from my physique tweakings...
Your body is a reflection of what you consistently do. If you:
- Eat and train in a way you love and embrace the look that produces - peace and happiness and great joy will fill the land
That would be now. Muscles, curves, yoga, handstands, ice cream, kettlebells.
- Eat and train in a way you love but reject the look that produces - uh-oh, conflict, turmoil, insecurity, pain
That would be loving heavy lifting and feeling strong but being embarrassed about the size of your muscles and wanting to look like an actress or model instead. Oh, how I tormented myself with this one!
- Eat and train in a way you dislike hoping to achieve a certain look - uh-oh, conflict, turmoil, inconsistency, reactive eating
That would be every diet or fat loss program I've ever followed. Rules, calorie-counting, macro-tracking, fasting windows, off-limits foods, workout dread, ignoring pain and fatigue to stick to the schedule. OMG, no. Even if it "worked" the results were always temporary.
I think it's important to do what you love, but also to realize that what you love may change. Now, I'm much more inclined to roll with it and do whatever interests me and makes me happy THAT DAY. I had to quit doing the thing where I decide: now I'm a bodybuilder, now I'm a vegan, now I'm Pilates girl, now I'm paleo. I'd make some kind of dogma my new identity and reject or not allow myself to do anything that conflicted with it. It's possible to do that even with intuitive or happy eating. Don't make anything your "new thing."
I look at the super fit picture of you and I hear what you are saying but I have build in view that someone looking as strong must feel incredible. Super energy, super strenght, confidence and happiness. I don't see 3 hours a day in the gym. I don't see tiredness. I read what you are saying, but my build in view of how looking so strong must feel is messing up with my emotions about it.
Rationally I know it's not a pursuit that will bring me joy and satisfaction. Most days I feel I have moved on and I am content. It's like letting go of old shoes, not very comfortable anymore but I did find comfort at some point and not fully ready to let go. The new shoes still don't feel perfect fit either.
I'm thinking some people probably DO feel incredible, energetic, and happy while being quite muscular and lean - if it's their natural body type, if it's achieved in a sustainable way, if they enjoy the process, if they fully recover, if fitness is one part of a full and happy life.
I used to assume that everyone who was lean and muscular was miserable, just like I assumed that everyone who was thin had an eating disorder. (Ha! Projecting own issues much??) I realize now that you can never know what's going on with anybody, especially based on external appearances. People can feel amazing or absolutely miserable in all shapes and sizes.
I am exercising happily, and eating (more) happily, but it does not result in me looking like a fitness model. Most of the time, I can say 'oh well, I just look like a regular person,' but sometimes I struggle.
I absolutely struggled with that too. It was extremely hard at first because the gym rat, action hero, fitness blogger, diet enthusiast had become my identity. Who am I without it? I had no idea. It was scary.
I quit the gym in 2007 after nearly a decade of going there on schedule without fail. I'd had the same personal trainer 3x per week for years and years. Then...nothing. I bought a barbell and more dumbbells and tried to implement similar training at home with various programs (Afterburn, Venus Index, Turbulence Training) but it sucked. I was SO TIRED. My exercise turned to mostly walking and Pilates. I loved both and felt so much better. Pilates fixed a bunch of my broken stuff, especially my lower back pain, but I didn't have those showy muscles anymore. I wasn't taking creatine and eating whole chickens. In fact, I went pretty veganish because I was so sick of the high protein intake. My body changed a lot. I lost some weight, but I got softer and more normal looking. Sometimes I was happy about that and sometimes it caused panic, like I had to take immediate action to get riptshizzled again. After one grueling strength workout and half a day of "clean" high protein eating, I'd want to lie on the floor, and cry, and eat donuts. I didn't have it in me anymore.
As I continued to move in ways that actually felt good and were fun (I found yoga and kettlebells), that joy started to override all the crazy thoughts about wanting to look a certain way. Not long after that, I started Happy Eaters, shut down my fitness blog, and started paying attention to hunger and fullness and eating to feel good. That's where it got really interesting. I very gradually (like half a pound per month gradually) got leaner by eating food I enjoyed, eating when I was hungry, and stopping when I was satisfied. No calorie counting, no fasting, no macros, no high or low anything, no off-limits foods, no rules of any kind. For the first time since I was a kid, the way I was eating was completely enjoyable and sustainable, so was the way I was playing - walking outside, standing on my head, swinging from things, jumping around.
When I look at me now, I don't have any more muscle mass than the average woman. I may have less thanks to the spider monkey genetics. If I were a dude I would qualify as a hardgainer, but you can see the muscles I do have because I'm lean. I'm lean because I'm consistent, and I'm consistent because I enjoy my food and playtime so much. I'm truly satisfied. I'm not relying on willpower to eat less or to push myself. It took years longer doing it that way, but the results are even better than any of my quick-fix schemes.
Which is a longwinded way of saying that the struggle is real. When you're pursuing a fitness model body through traditional (crazy) means and you give that up, you feel lost. Lots of doubt, lots of mixed feelings, definite identity crisis, but it won't always be like that. I'm genuinely happy, which makes weight and body comp pretty irrelevant. Feeling amazing has become the whole point, and....duh, it's what I'd been trying to achieve through restriction and overtraining. Now, with hindsight and logic and all, how could deprivation, fatigue, and injury ever have made me feel amazing? I was going about it all wrong. If you're listening to your body, honoring your appetite, resting when you're tired, pursuing joy and satisfaction, you're doing it right. Hang it there. It will pay off in ways you can't imagine.
I so love short kettlebell and bodyweight workouts at home. I'll use a dumbbell once in awhile, but not the 60 minutes of dumbbells, barbells, and weight machines I used to endure. I'm definitely smaller and less muscular than at the height of my bodybuilding/fitness/figure fixation. I used to worry that's what would happen if I quit the gym, but I'm happier, less hungry and tired, and I'm not busting out of my clothes in weird ways, like my biceps being too big for my shirt sleeves or my glutes not fitting in pants. I know that's a problem many people dream about, but I'm ok with letting it go. When I was a fitness blogger, personal trainer, martial artist, gym rat, I couldn't. I was so worried about what everyone would think. Never mind how I felt or what made me happy.
Once when I talked about letting up on the hard training and wanting to be a little smaller and softer, someone commented that skwigg wanted to be skinny-fat. WTF?! As a blogger, I put myself out there so much online that I had a little too much outside input on my appearance. It kept me crazy. I remember being recognized at the grocery store once (?!) and getting so paranoid that the food in my cart wasn't "clean" enough. Like I'd been outed as someone who buys Pringles. LOL
If I take appearance out of it, and I take worries about what other people think out of it, I can just do what I love and what makes me feel amazing. It's funny how THAT produces the best results for me. I'm more consistent, rested, confident, enthusiastic, all of it. Trying to be something you're not to please people who don't care is a surefire ticket to misery.