I was having a conversation with one of my clients that inspired me to divulge all of my poor dieting choices in the past and the results of some of the tactics I used in an attempt to reach my physique goals. I also wanted to map out for everyone my weight changes during my fitness journey- they are not what you may expect. I’m hoping by putting my personal struggles (and ultimately finding what worked) in the open someone will learn from my mistakes without repeating them, and take the shortcut to a stronger, healthier, leaner physique.
I was always thin in grade school and high school. I loved sports and was very active. My mom was a nurse, and she prepared healthy meals for our family each night. I always knew when my dad went to the grocery store because we would finally have sugary cereal and fruit roll ups! My weight stayed around 120 most of high school- I only knew my weight at my sports physicals and didn’t think much of it otherwise- and I continued with soccer, basketball, and track. I ate what I wanted in moderation. I stopped eating when I was full. I always had the bad habit of eating quickly, though (something I am still trying to change).
I had a long and lean physique from sports, but of course, I wished I was curvier. I wished I had blonde hair instead of dark hair; I wished I had fair skin instead of olive skin. Unfortunately, it seems more often than not we want whatever we don’t have. I highlighted my hair and bleached it to the point of damage. I tried to look like other girls instead of looking like myself. If I could do things over, I would have celebrated my unique look instead of trying to fit in with everyone else. My physique goals would have worked with my physique and not against it. (*tip- hint, hint*)
I left for college, and I decided to forgo playing soccer when I arrived at the University of Pittsburgh. I was in the athletic dorms since I had previously said I would try out, but I just didn’t love it enough to continue. My activity slowed. I continued to eat in the amounts I used to- likely more with the wide array of foods at my disposal on campus- and I started to gain weight. I didn’t notice since I didn’t own a full-length mirror (or a scale). I remember coming home from one break to purchase clothes (there wasn’t much shopping done on a college budget) and realizing I was up about three sizes. I saw a little fluff hanging over my jeans, and I never experienced that before. I was very upset. I decided I would do Weight Watchers after I saw my Auntie was as well. I was to eat a certain amount of points- I think about 20. I decided to eat 6. That is about 300 calories. I got rail thin, I am 5’6’’ and I weighed 110 pounds at that time. People became concerned. Any and all muscle I put on my frame during high school quickly diminished. All I knew was that I didn’t want anything hanging over my jeans and I would do anything to make it disappear. I could only sustain this for a short time. I eventually fell off the wagon, and I fell off hard. I worked as a waitress at a bar close to my college. I used only to eat healthy foods while I was at work but changed my ways and began eating all of the junk. Chicken fingers, chicken wings, I would dip grilled cheese sandwiches in mayo. I would head off to work with a mini Pizza Hut pizza and a DQ blizzard. I gained it all back plus, and I didn’t have my muscle. My body composition was worse than when I began dieting.
I had to get the weight back off yet again since I didn’t pick a sustainable program. I tried to exercise endlessly and read any and all articles I could find in every single fitness magazine for information about what I should and shouldn’t eat. Always searching for “the answer.” I used all of the tips, but each magazine told me something different to do. I didn’t know how to eat the foods I loved, and I really didn’t know how to build the physique I wanted. I did a lot of high-calorie burning activities- no weights. I judged how effective my training would be by a number of calories that I burned during the session. More the merrier. I lost some of the weight, ate fairly normal, but never reached my aesthetic goals. I made sure my weight didn’t go above 122 pounds at all costs.
I completed nursing school and moved across the country to Arizona. I joined a gym and went to group classes. I didn’t eat much and lost more and more weight until it settled at about 115. I figured I would never have the lean muscular look I wanted and decided it was because of genetics. I felt I had to be very thin to ward off any cellulite and didn’t know how to build muscle or change my body composition. This continued for about 6 years- the hamster on a wheel cycle- eat well (but not much), workout workout workout workout and look the same.
I stumbled into a group personal training class, and the class had a significant amount of strength training incorporated into it. Much more so than the classes I was attending. Some of the class-goers had lean lower bodies. I asked them what they were doing and what they were eating and enter my very first meal plan and a trip to the machines and free weights in the gym.
From eating more and increasing my protein, I finally started to see results. All that time and nothing and now six months and I could see definition almost everywhere. I was still thin, and for the first time, I wanted to gain weight the right way. I was open to letting go of my obsession with scale weight. I gained my first 5, then 10. I did my first competition at 126 pounds, 11 pounds heavier than when I started my nutrition and training regimen but I finally looked athletic. If I had relied only on the scale, I would have never built the lean muscle that I desired for so long.
Fast forward three more years. During that journey, I learned how to diet flexibly. I learned to balance and broke away from being “on” or “off” my nutrition program. I built a lower body- finally. I could have stayed in my comfort zone relying on the scale and kept spinning my wheels for decades. Luckily, being open minded worked in my favor and eating to fuel my body- eating for my goals- while in conjunction with training for them- allowed me to finally see the progress I was hoping for.
I took the past two years off to build muscle. It is very very difficult to build lean muscle while you are in a caloric deficit (likely will only happen if you are a beginner lifter) and I competed for multiple years and shows back to back. I am now sitting at 127- 128 lbs with a little more to go, but I am leaner at this weight than I have been in the past.
There are so many flashy diet promises out there it is difficult to be patient for results. We are a world of instant gratification. If you do it the right way, though, you will be able to enjoy the results and maintain them for the rest of your life.
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