The way I see health and fitness has changed quite a bit during the past 12-14 months.
When it comes to working out, I used to be the suck-it-up-and-get-it-done-anyway type of gal, who thought that if you have a health problem or you don't look and feel the way you want, it's because you don't have enough willpower and discipline to change things.
In my mind, there were just excuses that held you back if you weren't where you wanted to be.
I didn't realize how out of balance I was — exercising was the most important thing in my entire day.
Years ago, I was obsessed with dieting. I've told this story before but it's worth mentioning it again. When I joined Weight Watchers, we had weekly weigh-ins where we had to step on the scale so the group instructor could take our weight and write it down in our personal weekly logbook.
I lost weight every single time, and I couldn't understand how some people gained something. I didn't get it when they said that it happened because they couldn't say no to some birthday cake or wine, because to me, it was obvious: What do you want more, lose weight or eat that cake?
Sometimes this kind of obsession can be good. It gets you to your goal. But the problem is when you start doing anything so obsessively that your health suffers. Things get bad if you have zero flexibility in your life, because all you can think of is your bodyweight and how you look.
But that's exactly what I thought health and fitness means…
Not anymore… Here are the things that changed the way I think about health and fitness:
We hear all the time that if you want your body to look a certain way (which often means to lose weight), you just need to diet harder and exercise more intensely. If you don't have the body you want — well, that's your fault because you haven't done enough.
What I now know is that the way we look isn't completely up to us. It's largely up to our genetics. We can try to fight our natural weight because we think that we should be smaller and weigh less. We may lose the weight and get to the point we thought should be good for us, but it may not be what's natural for us.
Back over 11 years ago when my weight loss and dieting rollercoaster started, I decided that I need to get back to my high school weight. However, I had grown up and I wasn't a teenage girl anymore. My body didn't have to be 62kg anymore like it had been when I was 17. I was now 21 and more woman than a girl.
But I wanted it anyway, got to work and totally wrecked my health. I lost my period and because I still kept working hard and dieting most days (except when I was bingeing…) I kept my weight where I wanted it to be. But this weight wasn't right for me, as my body told me by turning off my normal hormone production and making my sleep a mess.
After I recovered from hypothalamic amenorrhea, my bodyweight is somewhere around 75 kg. My fat percentage is fairly high. Would I like it to be lower? I wouldn't mind if it was. It's not that my life, mood or self worth depends on it, but I wouldn't mind if my fat percentage was lower.
However, my high fat percentage is necessary for me to keep my period and allow me to sleep well.
So, It's not as black and white: Work out harder, diet harder and you'll be the fittest person in the world. Being fit doesn't mean being the leanest and the lightest person in the room. We need to let our bodies to find the weight and fat percentage that works best for it.
After recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea, I wanted to get back to working out quickly. I was just tired of not being able to exercise the way I wanted. The first months of just walking were great, but as I the months went by, I started to feel more energy and I just needed to get back to moving.
And I did. However, I didn't pay attention to something very important: I had not strength trained for months. I had lost a lot of strength and when I started lifting again, I got injured.
I nursed a knee injury for a few months. For the last four months, I've had back injury. I've been able to work out a bit here and there, but I keep getting setbacks and the past few weeks have been pretty bad. For now, it looks that I might have a disc injury. I probably need another break from weight lifting. I don't want to get all negative here, but I never used to get injuries and now I've had several.
I would really love get back to working out. I have no other goals than moving my body in a way that feels good, and gaining back some strength. Honestly, I have lost so much strength that I feel it already in my everyday life. I haven't trained properly and consistently for 14 months now and it feels.
My perspective to health and fitness has completely changed because of these injuries and setbacks.
Today, it working out in order to lose weight doesn't even cross my mind. I get it that some people need to do that, but there are plenty of people who are fighting hard to to lose “the last 5 lbs” that don't really make any difference in their lives.
Desperately wanting to lose weight was the direct reason why I first got hyptothalamic amenorrhea and then indirect reason why I got injured (because I was sidelined from working out for so long, which happened because I had HA).
I don't care about sculpting my muscles or anything like that. Which is not to say that it's a bad goal for someone else or for myself at some point in the future. But for me, right now, my only goal is being healthy and get stronger for life. I want to be able to work out again one day, injury and pain free, and do it for my health.
Reading and Listening to Good Resources
Everything you read and listen to shapes the way you think.
This podcast has been super helpful in understanding that health and fitness is so much more than the looks of your physical body. It took me a while to understand that.
If you have hypothalamic amenorrhea, you should read this book.
Actually, I have to admit that at first I didn't want to take a lot of the advice in this podcast seriously. They emphasize the importance of eating a lot of food in almost every episode, and they often advise that women should eat rather more than less, especially if they are very active and/or have hormonal problems.
They talk a lot about how our health may not have much to do with our bodyweight. I didn't want to believe it because I was deep into my over exercising phase and thought that people who don't do hard core workouts are just weak or have no willpower. I'm pretty embarrassed about the way I used to see things, but hey, at least I learned from it and I now know that they were absolutely right.
Reading this book has made me realize so that working out doesn't have to mean getting absolutely exhausted and crawling out of the gym after finishing your workout. I've read Nia's articles for a long time and at first, I didn't like them because I thought the advice she gives wasn't “hard core” enough. Now I absolutely understand and realize that she's right when she says that basic strength training is what you mostly need. It feels actually really great to finish the workout being more energized than when you started, and not having to push yourself to do 50 burpees at the end of the workout to feel truly accomplished.
The way I see health and fitness now is very much different from how I used to see it before.
Injuries and setbacks are the worst but at the same time, I've learned to appreciate my body in a totally different level. It's amazing how much our bodies do for us and it's sad how much we beat them up despite that. We ask them to do more and look better, and often don't give them enough fuel so it can do all these things.
I hope this post didn't come out too negative and complain-y.. But I really wish that we could start seeing fitness for what it should be — something that helps us to live a longer and healthier life.
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