A super-long post about exercise and eating

In January I started a 13-week fitness and nutrition program called 80 Day Obsession. I’m a huge fan of the trainer who created it and loved her prior programs, so I was pretty jazzed about this one. Especially because its unique design was not for weight loss, but for muscle gain and definition.

I’m one of those people who genuinely enjoys working out and eating a fairly clean diet, but this program was pretty different for me, for two reasons.

  • First, most of the six weekly workouts I’d be doing were an hour long, whereas I usually stick to 30-minute workouts.
  • And second, the nutrition component involved timed nutrition (basically, eating certain amounts of specific types of foods together, at set intervals. That second part definitely took some getting used to, because it required a lot more planning and thinking ahead for each meal.
  • And did I mention there are 80 unique workouts in this program? Yeah. You never do the exact same one twice. Chew on that.

To quickly summarize, weeks one and two were difficult for me. I felt moody, hungry and tired pretty much all the time. I also wasn’t sleeping much because #motherhood. In week three I switched from evening to morning workouts and started feeling incredibly good.! I was seeing physical changes and felt focused and energized. I bumped up brackets in my eating plan (read: more food) and was no longer very hungry in between meals. Things were looking up.

Weeks four through six were good, and I stayed super consistent with the timed eating, although I felt bored with most of my meals (disclaimer: there are TONS of things you can eat and recipes to enjoy while sticking to this program, but I work fulltime and have two young kiddos and the energy for that just wasn’t there). I was getting sort of grossed out by eating so many eggs and so much more meat than I typically do (disclaimer #2: there is a vegan option for this program, I just didn’t feel it was for me).

Starting in week seven I still followed the timed nutrition, but found myself cheating a bit between meals and reaching for sweets. Doing this during Girl Scout cookie season was not wise.

In week eight I found myself really disliking the timed nutrition. I was just over it. Not that it was that difficult or restrictive, I just started to recognize that it wasn’t a good fit for me and my relationship with food. I was bored and sick of having to plan so much. Basically, the more I had to focus on what I needed to eat, the more I wanted to shove candy bars and marshmallows in my face. This is exactly why I’ve always preached about balanced eating…because the all-or-nothing approaches make me resent something (healthy eating) that I typically love and embrace.

As the program concluded, I did see impressive physical changes, with lots of lost inches and a huge increase in my strength and endurance. I hadn’t pushed myself this hard physically in years.

I also did a lot of thinking and came to these conclusions:

  1. Three months of timed nutrition and 100 percent clean eating firmly solidified my deep love for wine, baked goods and chocolate. These things make me happy. They are not bad or forbidden. And they cannot be ignored. I love these things and don’t care if they contain grains and sugar and didn’t exist in the paleolithic era. Sucks for dinosaurs.
  2. I don’t feel as well on a diet high in animal protein. I don’t really like meat and I never crave it. Eggs are ok, but in moderation. I mean, when you think about where they come from…it’s sort of filthy. I’ve read a lot about eating for your blood type, and know that I’m predisposed to not respond well to animal proteins, so this isn’t shocking.
  3. Before this program, my portions had gotten a bit out of whack. This program taught me how much I needed to eat to actually feel full, and how much better I felt when I spaced my protein and carbs out more throughout the day.
  4. I WANT something sweet after every.single.meal. I don’t NEED something sweet after every.single.meal.
  5. I love vegetables and they can be a great main course, not just a side or a snack.
  6. I don’t like regimented approaches to eating, no matter how long they last or what they’re designed to do. I get that for a lot of people these plans work as a reset or pseudo detox but I definitely do better when I stick to smart choices and portion sizes but don’t have to overthink it. LITERALLY every female I know struggles with some sort of food or eating issue, and we can blame society or fashion magazines but the fact is, this really sucks, and if there’s something you’re doing that triggers bad feelings or behaviors, stop. Don’t do it. Accept that it’s not a failure but a sign to do things differently.
  7. I was not pushing myself nearly hard enough in my workouts leading up to this. I was seven months post-partum and was using that as an excuse to just coast and fit in exercise in when I had time. This program challenged the hell out of me physically. Never before had I felt such muscle fatigue or had to push myself mentally this way during workouts. I feel awesome and stronger than I have in years.
  8. I can do hard things. Like get 4 hours of sleep with a sick baby, and still wake up at 5, work out, stick to timed nutrition and work all day. I can do it because I made a choice to do it, and I had a ton of support (Jim, my friends, my accountability group, and daily interactions with an online group of other health coaches and the program creator).
  9. I like when my daughters see me working out and eating healthy foods. It gives me an opportunity to talk about being strong and healthy. Not only does it show them that I value taking care of myself, and that some small chunks of time are for me to fill my own cup.
  10. Weight looks different on everyone, and the same person can look very different at the same weight, depending on their amount of muscle. I’ve seen people complete this program who look NIGHT AND DAY different, and lost tons of inches, but not ONE POUND. My weight went up and down throughout the program, ending just about exactly where I started, but I did see a big difference in how my body composition changed, and dropped into smaller clothing sizes by the mid-way point. Moral of the story? Sometimes that mythical “goal weight” isn’t where you’ll look or feel the best.

Would I do this again?

Probably not. It was a good experience and I learned a lot and gained so much strength, but the strict eating structure isn’t for me. And that’s totally ok. I mean, the name of the program is 80 Day Obsession – the entire goal is to become obsessed with your fitness and nutrition, so I get that I signed up for that. But I think that looking ahead I’ll still use a lot of the workouts but follow my gut (no pun intended) when it comes to eating.

Do I recommend trying 80 Day Obsession?

Yes. I’m all for new experiences, especially ones that teach you about how to be healthier. That being said, if you tend to struggle with food issues, or are unaccustomed to intense workouts, then maybe not.

Any secrets to making the program work?

Shakeology is a freaking miracle product. I’ve had one of these superfood shakes almost daily for more than three years, and they’re an essential part of my health. I also used two products from the Beachbody Performance Line throughout the program: Energize and Recover – and holy moly these made a WORLD of difference. I will continue to use both. Plus, this program incorporates a weekly self care day, to stretch, foam roll, take an Epsom salt bath, get a massage, etc. I love that.

What’s next?

This month I started an entirely different type of program, called 2B Mindset. This is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of, and I’m learning a lot. Naturally, some of that learning is pretty uncomfortable, but it’s challenging  in good ways.

This program is solely focused on healthy ways to eat, without counting calories, or containers or making any food off limits. It’s keyed into helping you address emotional eating and lose weight (or maintain a healthy weight) without feeling deprived.

Here’s the craziest part: there’s no exercise. None. If you do want to exercise you can, but this is a fully immersive focus on how to gain control of how you view food, plan meals, and eat to feel full without going off track.

I am LOVING it. It’s a complete 180 from 80 Day Obsession, and that’s ok. It’s been amazing to explore a new approach and very freeing to start shedding some of the negative thought processes I have surrounding food and exercise. I strongly recommend this program, which is all available online (the content is all in short videos).

Happy to answer any questions, and hope that in sharing this you might find some amusement or helpful information.

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