Me & MyFitnessPal or: My journey with fitness & weight loss & how I'm learning to forget the scale.
Hey, y’all! This entry is going to be a long one. It’s a rather personal look into my journey of fitness and weight loss…where I was, where I am now, and my ideas on my continued expedition into health and wellness. As I think about where I want this blog to go in the future and how I want it to be shaped, I'm feeling more and more the need to put myself out there, even if it is scary sometimes. Being open and honest about a personal journey can be extremely frightening, but it can also be healing and bring about a positive change not only for myself, but hopefully for other people. So that is where this post stems from. If my journey and experiences can help someone find the motivation to love themselves more or to work harder for themselves, that makes me super happy and motivated to continue sharing my story!
For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve spent the better part of the last two years working on myself through fitness, as well as changing my eating and drinking habits. Well, today is an unusual anniversary for me! It has been exactly one year since I started tracking my calories in the app MyFitnessPal in an attempt to continue my fitness journey and meet new goals.
To be honest, I really just started using the app as an experiment. I wasn’t unhappy with my weight, per se. I had already been working on exercising consistently for a little over half a year. At some point I decided I wasn’t seeing the results I was wanting to see, and thought this would be interesting to add to my regimen. MyFitnessPal was an attempt to push it up a notch. To see if I could get bigger results….I was curious what tracking calories could really do, and how it could transform me and push me even further! It’s been an interesting year…
(Just a little back story to begin, especially for those who haven’t followed my journey on Instagram so far…)
When I started exercising almost 2 years ago, I was extremely depressed. Many of my best and closest friends had all decided to move away from New Orleans, onwards to new endeavors in new cities. When one of my last close friends moved away, I went into a super dark place. I was lonely. I felt old and didn’t know how to meet new people. I felt like I was in a rut, where all I did with my free time was go to bars (which is a pretty common thing in New Orleans…everything seems to revolve around alcohol here). I didn’t feel in control of myself, and I wanted a big change. I didn’t know what the change was, but I needed to start somewhere, so something that was tangible, something that I could control, was working out. I could make a physical change if I was diligent and put in the work, and from there, hopefully the mental change would follow.
Even though I’ve spent the last 18 years of my life as a dancer and dance teacher, I’ve never been someone who you’d think was a fit person. I have always been a fuller figured gal, and that’s caused it’s own silent grief for me in many forms. I’ve always hated that I had a large bust, which has been a part of why I’ve always had back pain. I was embarrassed by my bust size….for pretty much all of my life. But it’s funny the things we focus on. I never really focused on the rest of my weight, just my bust size. Weird.
Anyway, when I started the Anti Inflammatory Diet about 7 years ago, in the first year I lost about 30 lbs. This wasn’t the goal AT ALL. But when you remove sugar, dairy, red meat, and gluten….you’re bound to lose a bit of weight. What’s crazy is, before this, I never really weighed myself. I was just always a little bigger, but I never thought anything about it. I would only weigh myself when I went to the doctors office, and I was always around 155 to 160 lbs. Was I thrilled with that weight? No. Was I super upset about it? Also no. I just thought that was me.
When I lost the 30 lbs over the course of a year and was more around the 130 lb range, just from changing my dietary habits to the Anti Inflammatory Diet, I couldn’t believe the transformation. It was so gradual that I hardly noticed a difference. I had to look back at photos, or even just at the clothes that no longer fit me in my closet, or people would actually have to say that I looked super different before I really saw a change. It never really sank in however, because again, my focus for switching my diet wasn’t weight related, it was for my back pain and for healing my injuries. So when I started gaining weight again a few years later into my experience with the Anti Inflammatory Diet (mostly from days where I thought I was feeling better with my pain so I would cheat from time to time, and those times added up) all of the sudden my clothing wasn’t fitting anymore. It wasn’t a ton of extra weight, but when I decided to start exercising and really take control of my health and my fitness, I was around 138-140 lbs.
For 6 or 7 months, I just exercised. I did 30-45 minute videos in my room, 4 to 5 times a week. It was hard. Like I said before, no one would have called me a fit gal, including myself! I would struggle. I couldn’t get through videos. I’d have to stop and take a ton of breaks. I was NOT FIT. Remarkably, I kept at it. Remember, I was in a very dark place, I felt like I didn’t have any friends left, so I had no motivation to go out and try to be social. What I DID have going for myself was consistency. I knew that I would go to work, and then I would come home and work out, and after that I would make dinner. Rinse, repeat. I could rely on it. It was something I could do for me that was positive. It was healthy. It was a step in the right direction, even if I was struggling, especially in the beginning.
Over time, I began to see results, but this time I was really SEEING THEM. Because this time, I was trying hard with goals in mind. I was trying to work out, I was trying to get stronger, I was trying to lose weight. The first time I lost it, it just happened and it sort of came and went, if that makes sense. This time, the more I worked, the more I wanted a result. I was actively trying to make a difference in my appearance this time.
I eventually dropped those 8-10 lbs and was back to the 130 lb mark. But after working so hard, while I’d lost some of the extra weight that I didn’t want, now I wanted to see what else I could do! I wasn’t seeing the muscle and definition as much as I wanted, and like I said before, I was curious what tracking my calories could do. I did some research about easy ways to go about tracking and found the app MyFitnessPal. I got a cheap FitBit Flex 2 to track my steps and sync to the MyFitnessPal app, and set my goal to be 120 lbs. I wasn’t in a hurry, I wanted to do it the healthy way, aiming to lose about 1 lb a week, so I entered all my information and it basically gave me a date that I would weigh 120 lbs by if I stuck to my calorie goals. It seemed crazy that it could be that specific, but 2 months and change later, around the week that it said I would be 120 lbs….I was indeed 120 lbs.
It was unbelievably exciting to reach a goal like that! I don’t think I had been 120 lbs since I was a teenager, and setting my mind to something, doing it slowly and in a healthy way, felt amazing, and I was happy.
Then, I set a new goal. I wanted to try for 115. This was harder. Restrict more calories, plug in the numbers, continue the same amount of exercise. Three months later, I was there. 115 lbs. Insane. I had never thought that was a number I would see when stepping on the scale. I kept going, not really trying to lose more weight, and all of the sudden, three months after that I was 112 lbs. Absolutely the smallest I’ve ever been. Did I think at the time that was too small? Maybe I had an inkling in the back of my head, but you start to get very addicted to the smaller number. There is a satisfaction of setting a goal, completing a thing, and seeing the result you were hoping for.
During all this time, I began working out at the New Orleans Boxing Club. I got rather addicted to the classes there, and I would go about 4 times a week (I actually still do this). I work very hard there, and I’m proud of how much stronger I’ve gotten since I started at this gym. I’ve also upped my endurance ten fold, adding running to the intense cardio and strength work we do there.
One thing I’m really gaining more of now after all this time is muscle. I can see it visibly in my arms and legs, the shape of my body is changing from being thin and fit to still being thin, but now much stronger and more muscular. This is also changing what I see on the scale now and its been hard to wrap my head around the difference. Like I said, it gets addicting, seeing that smaller number, and you think that is what is making you healthy. The small number on the scale. The hard work you’ve done to get to THAT place.
I’ve been getting angry at myself this last month because I’ve been consistently around 120 lbs again. Yes, that’s right. I’ve been at my original goal weight for this last month, the weight I never thought I'd be able to make it to in the first place, and it’s been upsetting me! I’ve been so down on myself, feeling like I’ve failed somehow. I had made it to 115 lbs, and then, to 112 lbs! I worked hard to make that happen, and now to be back at my original goal weight is somehow making me feel like I'm a failure. I’ve cried. I’ve said hateful things to myself.
This last week, however, I’ve been trying to turn it around. I’m trying to open my eyes. I’m trying to take this entire year into perspective and really remember why I started counting calories and using this app in the first place. Is it easy? No. Am I going to keep working on it? Yes!
So here we are…after all of that, I have some final thoughts as I wind down this year using MyFitnessPal.
Overall, I’d say it’s been a very positive experience. It’s taught me to really understand just what I’m putting in my body and to make better choices about how to nourish myself. I learned a ton about food over the last year (and I already thought I knew so much!): it taught me a specific type of discipline, and it was interesting to see that if you are looking to hit a certain number, you can just stick to the goals, do the math, go slowly, and you’ll get there. I ALSO learned that it can be easy to get addicted to a number and feeling like you need to stay that number to be a "perfect person". Which leads me to this next part, where I’m starting to give myself these daily reminders so I can stay sane and keep my mental health in check with my actual physical health:
Number 1: 120 lbs for a 5’5” woman is HEALTHY. And dammit, I’m insanely healthy. I’m a clean eating freak who runs on a Vegan and Anti Inflammatory diet, I watch my calorie intake, I work out at the boxing gym about 4 times a week, and I go running 5-7 times a week. I am fit. I am strong. I have nothing to be ashamed about.
Number 2: Muscles weigh more than fat. While I continue to get stronger daily, I REALLY need to remind myself of this. I intend to continue my fitness journey and aim to get more muscle and be the strongest me that I know I can be, so it’s time to start getting used to this fact!
Number 3: A number isn’t everything! I am not perfect. Sometimes I look into the mirror and when I am higher on the scale, I can feel bad about myself. Other days I can look at myself and say, “I look and feel really strong today.” and I am proud of myself. I know it will likely be like this for me for awhile, and I’m going to actively try to look at myself in this positive light, rather than in the negative.
Number 4: Understanding why people call it a fitness JOURNEY. Because it really is that. You will have ups. You will have downs. You will have days that you feel amazing and strong and like you are on top of the world. And you will have days of misery, days where you think you’ve fallen off track, and you aren’t sure if you can keep going. Sending small reminders to myself when I can that I’m doing the best that I know how for me, and that I’m the healthiest that I’ve been in my entire life is so helpful. That is no small feat, but if I can remind myself of where I started and where I am now, I can be happy and insanely proud of myself. Because I’ve really come SO far.
Number 5: Listening to what my body is trying to tell me and not only paying attention to what my entries have to be each day. It’s about learning that maybe my body wants to be 120 lbs. Maybe my body requires those extra calories to get through the hard work I put it though every day when I go to the gym. I need that extra energy, and I need to be comfortable and intuitive and listen to what my body is trying to say so that it can perform for me the way I want it to.
Number 6: Learn to ignore the scale. This is going to be very hard for me. Because I’ve been attached to it for a solid year. While I think MyFitnessPal is very positive it many ways, it really only embraces and celebrates the number. I’m learning now that as I gain muscle, and hence a few pounds on the scale (or even if I'm just gaining a few more pounds because I'm eating a little more, which is ok, too!), it just shows you as a graph on your phone, falling away from your goal. It doesn’t show you that you could just be getting stronger and building muscle. It doesn't show that you might have had an off week and needed to take a little bit of a break, and so you strayed from your goal a little bit. (I will say that it does advocate for losing weight slowly and healthily, and it won’t let you complete your daily calorie log if you are under 1000 calories, which would be very unhealthy, so that is positive. But just seeing your weight on a graph isn’t the most nuanced thing, either.) Not much has changed for me! I eat pretty much the same amount of calories every day that I have for the last year, I work out the same amount, if not more than when I began this journey, but I’m back to 120 lbs! If I just look at the scale and the app, it looks like a failure. If I take a second to step back and see what I’m actually accomplishing, it’s a positive step in my fitness journey, and THAT is what we all need to be paying attention to. EASIER SAID THAN DONE! To that I can attest, I’m right there with you. But it is a journey, and I am grateful to keep learning.
Thank you for letting me share this with y’all. It’s helpful to share. It keeps me honest and allows me to really take a look at my life through a different lens. It reminds me that we are all perfect beings, and we are all on our own unique journeys to fulfillment. It can come in many forms. My transition over the last year or two has taken turns and new directions that I never thought it would go. It’s opened my mind for the future, and while I have my own insecurities and negative feelings, I also have immense joy and confidence. I’m generally very thankful that I have a body that allows me to work hard, and that I’ve come from a place of great injury to great strength. Allow yourself the ups, and the downs. We are all works in progress, myself included, and sometimes we all just need to be reminded that where we are, right now, is okay.