Are you discouraged by your progress with your fitness goals? Do you feel that anything you do doesn’t make a difference to achieving your desired goals? When things get stuck, most people work harder at their fitness or just give up, but have they looked at the bigger picture?
As many of us can relate, this is what our friend, Cindy, was experiencing. When we got together recently, her frustration was obvious saying, “What’s the use of doing all these exercises, because I didn’t see any results last time.” She had asked for advice a couple of years ago on how to tone up and lose a few pounds. At the time, she kept asking, “how long will it take for me to see my triceps pop?” Her focus was on fitness, and she was faithfully going to the gym, weight training, and watching her food intake. Although we talked about her diet, we didn’t go into detail about her eating habits. At the time she was working with a naturopath who was helping her address some food sensitivities.
Fast forward 2 years and Cindy’s enthusiasm for fitness had waned! She was frustrated with the lack of results. She said that the exercise was not making that scale budge one bit. The more we talked, the more it became obvious that Cindy needed to look at her nutrition plan. It certainly didn’t look like she needed to lose weight but she was clearly unhappy about her body composition. Something just didn’t seem right!
Time to Re-assess
Without doing a full nutritional analysis, i.e. the kind Mary would do as part of a more comprehensive plan, we agreed to meet to take Cindy’s body measurements, calculate her body fat, and determine the appropriate amount of macronutrients (fats, carbs, proteins) she needed to safely get to her ‘ideal’ weight. We asked Cindy to keep a journal of her food intake for about 3-5 days before we met so we could look at what she was eating and discuss the foods she liked and disliked. As she admitted, although originally reluctant to do it, keeping the journal was the most helpful and enlightening experience for her. The journal showed that she was starving her body! She was hooked on sugar and was mostly eating snack foods, processed foods, and taking in very few nutritious calories, i.e. breakfast turkey sausages, low fat ice cream bars, almonds, chocolate bars, coffee, and mostly salads for substantial meals. Although she was cooking great healthy meals for her husband, who has severe food sensitivities, she was not eating those meals herself.
Wow! That revelation was astonishing and became the turning point for Cindy.
All the body composition measurements and body fat calculations we took showed that Cindy was well within the appropriate ranges for her height and age. She did not need to lose weight. Her muscle definition, however, showed a different story. Instead of nourishing her muscles through her diet to build lean muscle, Cindy was allowing fat to deposit in her body. As an efficient system, the body turns muscle into fuel for the vital functioning of organs and systems when one starves the body of important nutrients. Also, she did not eat enough calories so she put her body into a ‘famine’ state where the food she ate was stored as fat to deal with the famine to come. (Ref 1)
New Lifestyle Plan
That A-Ha moment for Cindy shook her up and she left our meeting determined to change her experience. This was not a diet for her to follow but a new lifestyle. She was excited to see how much she could actually eat now by paying attention to the types of fats, proteins and carbs she ate. Although we were reluctant to give her an average daily calorie level, we felt that having a general sense of the grams of good fats, proteins, and carbs she should eat was important to help here gauge portion sizing. She’s now a pro at figuring that out without the exact numbers! To help her get started, we also shared with her a menu for the week with recipes from our blog. The key was for her to transition from processed, sugar-laden foods to a variety of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains.
How’s she doing? Although early in the journey, the difference is visible. Cindy is ‘glowing’ according to friends and acquaintances. She has lost about 2 pounds but is not focused on that number. She’s ecstatic about fitting into her pencil skirts and seeing the difference in her muscle definition. Cindy has also resumed her walking routine and weight training – and enjoying both activities. She has more energy and doesn’t need the sugar for her afternoon pick-me-up. Her husband is also ecstatic because she’s now eating dinner with him every night!
Cindy and her husband have also become our official recipe raters. They keep tabs on every one of our recipe they make and report back their rating out of 10. Thank you for loving our stuff!
Inspiration to Others
The best part of this story? Cindy has inspired others to get moving and eat more healthy meals. So far, Cindy has graciously shared her experience, recipes, fitness ideas, and loving support to two friends, her son and daughter-in-law and, of course, her husband. Her circle of influence is broadening as others continue to notice how much better and happier she looks.
In particular, we want to thank Cindy for being our inspiration to keep going. Thank you for renewing our commitment to sharing our knowledge and experience with you and others. It is an honor and privilege.
The next time you’re feeling stalled with your health goals, STOP, re-assess what your are doing for fitness and nutrition, and consult a professional if needed, i.e. fitness trainer or nutritionist. In some cases, there may be other issues that may be creating that stall so we recommend that you see your health care professional to discuss your concerns.
- Hatfield, Fredrick C., Fitness: The Complete Guide. Official Text for ISSA’s Certified Fitness Trainer Course, Edition 8.6.6., Carpinteria, CA: USA, 2013.