Often, people assume that health and fitness professionals have never had to struggle with their weight. You may think that we love to exercise and must have a natural aversion to all decadent or "sinful" foods, too. But that couldn't be further from the truth—at least for me. I was fit as a child and teen, and I am now as an adult. But college was a different story...
I gained about 35-40 pounds in college. I can't tell you the exact number, because it depressed me to get on the scale, so I just stopped looking. I was a little underweight when I started school, because I was exercising like a fiend and eating way too little. (I thought what I was doing was healthy. How little I knew then.) So when college started and I was living off of dining hall food, barely sleeping, and engrossed in a stressful major at a competitive school, I didn't have time to exercise like I used to, and I started stress eating. After under feeding my body for so long and then eating more, my weight ballooned up quickly—to the point that none of my clothes even fit! Talk about embarrassing. I came home for the holidays and my tell-it-like-it-is grandmother said (in front of everyone), "Nicole sure has gained weight in college!" (Thanks Grandma…I hadn't noticed.)
My weight issues continued for a few years. I remained overweight and unhappy, and was constantly getting ready to start new diets and fitness programs. I'd tell myself "No sweets starting Monday!" or "I'll exercise for 2 hours every day." Each plan would last about a day or two, and then I'd gorge on bags of candy and start skipping my workouts. I struggled with emotional overeating and an obsession with food, all the while hating how my body looked and wanting to change desperately!
So what did change? I learned to accept myself and care about myself. I learned to stop saying no to sugar, carbs, candy, or other "bad" foods. I learned to listen to my body's REAL cues for hunger, to stop reaching for food to cope with bad feelings, even when my body wasn't hungry. I re-trained my brain so that it was no longer "normal" to snack every time I watched TV or went to a movie. And I stopped obsessing with my weight (I threw out my scale). It didn't happen overnight, and I didn't even lose weight for a long time. It wasn't easy. I had setbacks, but I'd keep them in perspective and just keep trying to be better to my body and myself. Even without losing weight at first, I was happier. And I knew that eventually, my body would return to what was normal.
Over the years, I continued to drop weight without even trying, just by eating in moderation (when hungry), exercising in moderation (without focusing on the calories burned), and focusing on my health overall. Now I'm at a point where I'm happy enough with my body. I'm fit and healthy and I can look good enough in my clothes to not feel self-conscious. At the same time, I can enjoy eating without obsessing about the calories or fat, and I can exercise as much as I feel like, without forcing myself to do things that I don't enjoy. Overall, the things that helped me most were:
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