I read an article recently on Spark People (dear Spark, please chill with your website’s ads!) about the effort it takes to be “lean.” The author, Molly Gallbraith, discussed the effort she had to exert in order to be lean enough for a fitness competition. Her friend could easily live in a state of “perfect leanness,” while Molly had brain-fog, was cold all of the time, and felt immense fatigue throughout her body.
|The second picture from the left (w/ the six pack) depicts Molly Gallbraith
when she was fit, but also cold and hungry and foggy.
In another article about genes and body type, Molly Gallbraith posted this set of four pictures that show her size throughout the years. She said she was happier somewhere in the middle– not at her smallest.
Everyone’s genes are different. Some people are naturally very lean and others are healthier and HAPPIER with a few extra pounds on their bodies. My body likes to play a mix-and-match kind of game. Parts of me are naturally lean while other parts, no matter how much I try to change them, naturally hold on to more fat than I’d like. And, yes, at times I am secretly jealous of those who don’t hold on to fat in those areas; but honestly, there’s no point in expending extra energy on trying to look a specific way. We’re all different. And we all need to find our “happy weight.” Everybody has a happy weight, and I think finding and maintaining your happy weight makes a world of difference in your health, energy levels, body image, and overall happiness :)
So how do you find your happy weight? While I am certainly no health expert, I do know that I have found a decent balance between healthful eating and exercise. I put a lot of thought into my meals, I have a combination of challenging and super easy workouts during the week, and I can eat a little too much chocolate or cookie dough without losing sleep over it (which is a recent improvement!). I currently find myself at the heavier end of what I consider to be my own happy weight, but I also have become a lot stronger in the past several months.
Here’s what works for me and helps me maintain my happy weight:
1. Filling my refrigerator with mostly “whole foods.”
Are you tired of that phrase “whole foods?” I sure am. What I mean is this: most of the items on my grocery list come from the produce section, followed by the dairy section, and ending with the meat section. Items like chips, granola bars, or cereal don’t end up on my list because they don’t fill me up! And if they don’t fill me up, why spend money on them?
But with that said, I also couldn’t live without my treats. Chocolate is incredible. Pie is delicious. Ben and Jerry make the best ice cream. I try to keep my sugar intake low, but I know how much I genuinely enjoy certain desserts, so I’ll indulge a couple of times a week :)
2. Move Frequently and Exercise Happily.
I wrote a post called “How to Make You and Your Workout Click.” In that post I talked about moving in a way that makes you happy. Don’t head straight to the elliptical after work just because you feel like you have to. Go for a walk, do Zumba in your living room, join some sort of fitness class, or look around for fun workout videos on You Tube. Do what you want to do. I want to do my early-morning boot camp circuit classes. I don’t want to run on the treadmill. I want to do pilates or barre. I don’t want to do a Les Mills kickboxing “combat” class. On Saturday, I felt like I should go for a long run. But I didn’t actually want to. Instead, I downloaded a new podcast from Fearless Rebelle Radio (which has great shows about body image) and went for a five mile walk. That walk made me calm and happy. You’re much more likely to move frequently if you’re doing something that makes you happy.
3. Find Ways to Manage Stressful Situations.
We fog our brains when we allow stress to take over our lives. We overeat, over drink, defer exercise, and forget that we need to take care of ourselves. We need to have strategies to manage stress. If that means happy hour, great! And don’t forget that simple, low-impact exercises like walking and yoga are known to reduce cortisol levels in the body. Exercise (when it makes you happy) is an incredible form of stress relief.
It’s also important to examine the sources of stress. Is there something you can let go of? Is there something that doesn’t have to be done perfectly? Is there a smarter way to go about completing a task? Are you eating? That last one always surprises me….I know for some people it’s difficult to eat when stressed, but skipping meals will do nothing good for your body’s ability to carry you through those tough moments. Pause and eat something nutritious.
We crave sweets and other carbohydrates when we are low on sleep. Sleep more, crave less!
5. Be Self-Aware.
I eat slowly most of the time. I know it drives Ryan crazy to watch me nibble on a piece of chocolate or to take a month to finish a pint of ice cream because I only eat one or two bites every once in a while. I love food so much that I am rarely fazed by feeling full. Food tastes just as good when I’m stuffed as it does when I’m starving. So I have to practice mindful eating. Most of the time, I eat slowly with purpose. It makes all the difference. (Click here if you want to learn more about mindful eating.)
It’s also important to be self-aware while exercising. I think If I were working with a trainer, would I try harder? If Jillian Michaels and Chris Powell were nearby, would I do more reps? Jillian Michaels herself talked about this issue in one of her podcasts. Sometimes, without someone to push us, we work at only 50% of our fitness potential. That’s okay sometimes. A 50% effort falls into a stress-reducing exercise category, but when we intend to go hard, then go hard!
5. Be Nice!
Be nice to yourself. This is a lesson I have to learn again and again. Feeling guilty over mistakes and slip-ups, whether in diet or work or with family, does not allow us to move forward. This is a topic I find kind of embarrassing to talk about because I can be so unforgiving to myself when it comes to food and fitness. But everyday I try to remember that I need to do what makes me my happiest and healthiest…not leanest.
If you want to read more about Molly Gallbraith, click this link for her website! I’m a big fan over her overall message of attaining and maintaining a healthy & happy weight!
Question: What keeps you at a happy weight?