Getting healthy takes a lot of work--and remaining healthy takes just as much. Don't think that just because you finally lost all of that weight and improved your other stats, like blood pressure and lipid profile, that you can suddenly revert back to the habits that wound you up in the situation where you needed to get healthy to begin with.
People look at me and automatically assume that it doesn't take any work for me to stay slim. But this isn't the case at all. It does take a lot of work for me to remain fit, as it does with any person who is fit. We don't magically wake up with these bodies. We also don't spend insane amounts of money on pink drinks and other "health" products to achieve our healthy selves. I still have my daily dose of ice cream while ensuring I don't gain any fat as a result.
We sweat. We eat well. We sleep well. And we take time for ourselves to best minimize the stresses in our lives.
There are so many factors that can contribute to one gaining weight, such as stress and poor quality of sleep, that don't all have to do with food. Even so, much of what you do eat does factor into your personal health. You should opt for whole, nutritious foods that consist of 45-65% carbs, 10-35% of protein, and 20-35% of fat, depending on your level of activity. The more active you are, the more macronutrients you need. However, you don't have to be crazy with counting your macros. Just eat whole, nutritious foods, and doing this will work out the macros for you.
A massive problem nowadays, however, is that people are looking for quick fixes. From Plexus to ItWorks!, there is no end to how much money people are willing to spend so they can toss a pink drink down their throats and not actually have to work to get healthy. If these products do happen to work, it's probably because the people who buy these products naturally begin to adopt a healthier lifestyle--but you don't need to spend loads of cash to do so, and these products demand a sizable fortune. If your health also happens to approve while you're using these products, it's more than likely a result of weight loss, which, again, you don't need to achieve by breaking your bank on MLM schemes.
So what do you need to do in order to get healthy?
The solution is so simple that it's ludicrous: diet and exercise. Your journey to getting healthy should put an equal emphasis on both. There are a variety of percentages out there that contest the importance of both, ranging anywhere from 70% diet to 30% exercise or even 90% diet to 10% exercise. However, I believe in it being 100% diet and 100% exercise. You can eat healthy all day long, but being sedentary isn't going to help with your cardiovascular and muscular health. Being sedentary can be just as bad as eating poorly. By putting 100% effort into both, you maximize your chances of being the healthiest you can be.
For myself personally, I put a huge emphasis on resistance training. I do resistance training about 5x a week, LISS (low-intensity steady state) about 1-2x per week, and HITT (high-intensity interval training) once a week. I have one rest day. If I can squeeze in ballet, I replace HITT with a dance class. If you're just starting out, aim to incorporate resistance training into your routine about 2-3x per week. Cardio should be about 2-3x per week as well at a moderate intensity. Ultimately, starting out, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. You can break it up into any increments you can handle, from 5 minutes to 30 minutes, so long as you accumulate at least 150 minutes of exercise weekly. I would also argue that once you become fitter, aim to put a huge emphasis on resistance training--but don't neglect cardio.
As for diet, I primarily eat lots of fruits and veggies, getting in most of my protein in the morning and consuming some form of protein after an intense resistance training workout. I try to limit the amount of ultra-processed foods that I eat. I also try to limit myself to one sweet a day, enough to take care of whatever cravings I have.
Strive to eliminate most processed foods from you diet. Incorporate more fruits and veggies, get most of your protein in in the morning, avoid foods with lots of added sugars, keep hydrated throughout the day, and don't be swayed by terms like 'all natural' or 'fat-free.'
I can promise you that health doesn't come in the form of pricey supplements, cleanse fads, and wraps. There are never quick fixes to building up your healthy self. It takes hard work, but the effects are far more long-term than the short-term results typically gained from most diet fads.
I want you to do a social experiment. Go to any of your social media and search #fitspiration--Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, ect. What you'll find are millions of photos of chiseled bodies, motivational memes that focus on weight loss, pictures of "clean foods," and some serious vitriol against body fat. A lot of these do not come only from regular gym goers but also from fitness professionals, which is downright irresponsible considering that I do not know of any qualified certification that would encourage such unhealthy behaviors and attitudes toward fitness.
Fitspiration has become the next thinspiration. However, instead of pursuing an unreachable level of thinness, people are pursuing an unrealistic body type comprised of an inordinate amount of muscle and an unreasonably low expectation of what constitutes a healthy body fat percentage. Thus, fitspiration is just masquerading as thinspiration by trumpeting this idea that it is about being fit and healthy instead of simply thin. However, much of what you find in fitspiration tags still focuses on being thin--only with a little added muscle.
The sharing of these "motivational" posts is anything but motivating. Instead these posts create an elitist mindset that can make the gym even more intimidating for people who are already nervous about beginning a workout program. They also create unrealistic expectations for weight loss. In fact, a lot of the bodies being used in these fitspiration images are from fitness models with a generally unhealthy level of body fat. The level is so unhealthy that female fitness models often lose their menstruation cycles.
Not only does fitspiration promote unhealthy weight-loss ideals, but it promotes unhealthy fitness ideals. Take the collage of images above, for example.
Fitspiration isn't any better than thinspiration. It never will be. It promotes exercise as a form of punishment and inflicted self-hatred. When I was struggling with anorexia, I used exercise as a form of purging whenever I ate something that wasn't on my planned to-eat list of that day. And fitspiration is encouraging this type of purging by presenting this good/bad dichotomy when it comes to our bodies and the foods we put in it. We're bad if we eat a bag of chips because we naively assume that bag of chips will make us fat and fat is bad and so now we must punish ourselves with a workout that makes us hurt and feel even worse about ourselves to burn those chips we just ate.
It's a vicious cycle, one that won't be broken until we see fitspiration for what it really is.
Motivational memes aren't all that bad. If they encourage you to get to the gym, then that's fine. They shouldn't be setting your goals for you, though. Set your own goals and work toward them in a healthy manner. Nourish your body with whole, nutritious foods. Sleep well and minimize stress. Most of all, practice self-love.
ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, nutrition coach, young adult author, moody ballerina.
I help people perform without pain.
Order When Stars Die
Free on Lulu.
The views expressed on this blog are entirely my own. Any advice I offer is not to be taken as medical advice. If you think you have contraindications to exercise, please see your physician before implementing any sample workout plans I present on this blog.
All images are either my own, from Canva, or Creative Commons