Happy 2017, friends! I hope 2016 treated you well! The last year was truly amazing and I feel so lucky to have experienced so many new and exciting opportunities. During 2016, I graduated with my Master’s degree, completed two internships, launched my blog, and have continued to learn more about fitness and nutrition. I am so grateful to all of you who have been there supporting me along the way!
Looking back at 2016
2016 was the year of learning about proper nutrition and focusing on how food made me feel. Over the last year, I spent a lot of time researching information about nutrition. I would sit for countless hours on my computer (when I probaaaably should have been studying) and read about every ingredient of every food item in my refrigerator, how to track macronutrients (macros), etc. It might be very unsurprising to learn that I quickly became really obsessive over this topic and that it eventually lead to a rather unhealthy relationship with food.
For several months during 2016, I tracked my macros, which are the protein, fat, and carbs you should be consuming based on a a variety of factors (age, gender, exercise, etc.). The results I experienced from doing this were astounding. I was the leanest I’ve ever been, by far.
I was really proud of my physique, but, mentally, I was really, really unhappy. I would constantly think about tracking my food, weighing out each gram, and how to best avoid any social situation that involved eating food that I didn’t cook. So, I might have looked more healthy, but wow, was I unhealthy.
The story I always tell people and recently discussed on Snapchat (@realbalanced) is when Ryan unexpectedly brought home some gelato from the grocery store, after I had already tracked my meals for the day and only had dinner left to eat. Well, there was no way that gelato was fitting into my macros that day, and boy did that upset me. I sat on the ground and just sobbed while Ryan, bless his heart, just stared at my confusedly about why I was having a breakdown over ice cream. I was so mad that I couldn’t eat it, but I was obsessed with hitting my macros and never going over, even by a gram.
If you have experienced anything similar to how I felt when I was tracking my macros, I really suggest considering the state of your mental health. After all, this is a lifelong commitment, not a “quick fix.” (Side note: I’m definitely not saying that you shouldn’t have structure within your diet (stay tuned for my plans for 2017), but, if you need to, that it’s a great idea to have a “reset” and to take a few months to re-learn the importance of taking care of your entire body, mind included.)
The day after my gelato tantrum, I stopped tracking my macros and, after yet another period of food-binging, moved to eating whole, real food and just being extra cognizant of how each meal made me feel. I re-learned how to be mindful about nutrition, rather than being obsessive. I went on to complete my first round of Whole30, began to eat a higher-fat diet, and was really, really happy, which, I learned, is exactly the way a relationship with food should be!
My crazy food-binge after I stopped tracking my macros happened purely because I had been really restricting my food intake while simultaneously ever-increasing my fitness regimen (big mistake). It just so happened that I stopped tracking right around the time I graduated with my Master’s and turned 25, so I felt like I had every excuse to eat whatever and whenever I wanted. Ryan and I went to Kansas City for a vacation to celebrate and we ate our body weight in snacks. So. Many. Snacks. It was THE BEST. Not even a single ragret. Buuuuut, we did feel pretty awful after we returned home, and especially after my 25th birthday party where Ryan and I prepared enough food to feed 37 small armies, their extended families, and half of the state of Wisconsin. We legitimately sent every single guest home with enough food that they were eating from it for over a week. Lesson learned: not every single person wants to eat a buffet at an informal summer gathering.
After my party, I became really, really sick for a few weeks. This led me to the doctor and then, subsequently, to a GI specialist. I will spare you the details for now (I may discuss this situation at some point in the future), but it took a lot longer than I thought for me to regain my gut health and eat normal food again. For several months, I was eating only chicken breasts with the occasional helping of very blended vegetables and, on a good day, a little white rice. I couldn’t digest any other grains, protein, and definitely no fruit or processed food.
It wasn’t until the last month of 2016 that I FINALLY began to feel like myself again. I worked really hard to heal my gut so that these GI issues wouldn’t end up being a permanent issue. Currently, with the occasional need to take a digestive enzyme, I am able to eat most food! It’s pretty exciting and I’m loving slowly adding my old favorites (POPCORN) back into my diet and learning how it makes me feel. It feels like I have my life back!
I think this whole experience taught me a lot about food and how EVERYTHING you eat makes you feel a specific way. I am very deliberate in what I choose to include in my diet and, if something makes me feel even mildly sick, I don’t eat it. It’s just not worth it, especially since I love to work out and you can’t really complete a workout when you feel like you have the flu.
Beginning in January of 2016, I restarted Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide (BBG) program for the second time. I stuck with the program for all 12 weeks and the results quickly showed. This program is very focused on HIIT (28 minute workouts that involve lots of jumping around) so you can imagine that you’d burn body fat quickly. Plus, on top of it being pretty centered on cardio, there is a significant inclusion of plyometrics with a sprinkle of weight training. If you haven’t heard of this program before, just hop over to Kayla’s Instagram page (@kayla_itsines) and you can see firsthand some of the transformations women have experienced from her program.
I loved and still really enjoy BBG workouts when I don’t have a lot of time in the day and need to fit in a good workout; however, after doing BBG for more than 6 months, I became a little bored of it and was ready for a change. Enter spinning classes.
For the better part of last year, I spun at SPIRE Fitness in Milwaukee 5+ days a week. In the spring of 2016, I was spinning twice a day, every day. I LOVED IT. I had even considered to play around with the idea of auditioning to be an instructor, something I would have NEVER considered a few years previous. That was until, however, I quickly overdid it and injured myself.
Several doctor visits, daily physical therapy appointments, and thousands of dollars later, I learned that, what I thought was a knee injury, was actually a hamstring injury… I took A LOT of time off from not just spinning, but working out entirely. The two months I was resting were… really hard. I was unhappy, bored, and ready to get back to spinning as soon as possible.
Luckily, after a few months, I’m finally feeling more or less better. I returned to regularly spinning in November of 2016, but not nearly as often as I used to. My hamstring still flares up after classes, but nothing near the extent it used to. I think I’m almost healed!
While it was hard for me to come to terms with my hamstring injury and the cause of it, I think I’ve finally accepted that being on a bike just irritates it more than it helps it. I think I will always continue going to spin classes here and there, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get back to going daily. It’s just too much exertion for my lower body.
Looking into 2017
I am back to tracking my macros! (I know, I know, didn’t I just talk about how terrible of an experience this was last year?) I started tracking again last week after more than seven months. While, obviously it is easier (and just as beneficial!) to eat whole, real food for every meal, I, personally, have been experiencing a plateau of sorts in my results. I will be the first to say that you DO NOT need to track your macros to see results and, honestly, I wouldn’t even recommend the practice to someone who doesn’t know enough about nutrition. First and foremost, you should focus on eating real food ingredients and learning how those foods make you feel. If a particular ingredient or meal regularly leads you to having a headache or having a terrible night sleep, take some time away from eating that particular food and then, after an extended period of time, reintroduce it to see if that ingredient is the culprit of some GI distress. You may be surprised to learn that even ingredients most would consider to be healthy, may not personally work for you. This is not to say that everyone has food intolerances, just that every body digests food in a different way.
So, after realizing I had hit a wall in seeing any significant physical progress, I learned about a very successful macro and nutrition coach based in California and decided to make the leap and work with her. Thus far, I’ve been loving it. Personally, I’m just someone who likes structure so, as long as I don’t begin to become obsessive and unhappy again, I’m going to continue down this path.
I started tracking on December 29, 2016 and have successfully hit my macros every day since (for a total of 8 days so far). My coach has me eating a diet based around my training schedule and I’ve already learned a lot about how my body reacts to different macros at different times of the day. Primarily, I forgot just how important carbs are after a tough workout! When I was previously tracking, I paid little to no attention to the time of day I was eating a particular macro, so I’m VERY happy to have my coach’s assistance with this.
For 2017, my goal is to track my macros for a total of 90 days (3 months). I will be sending my coach regular progress updates and am going to continue to use progress photos as my personal way of seeing how my body is reacting to the diet change. If, after these 90 days, I am not happy with where I’m at (physically and/or mentally), I am going to return to just eating whole, real food based on my body’s hunger cues. Once again, this is entirely a personal choice based on my fitness goals for the year and I encourage you to spend a significant amount of time learning about food, nutrition, and what your body needs to thrive.
Since spinning isn’t really an ongoing option now, I took some time during December 2016 to really hone in on what I wanted to do next. Over the past few years, I’ve realized that if I don’t love the workout routine I’m in, I’m not going to do it. I don’t mean that I won’t regularly do it, because I will, I just mean that I will quickly make the decision to pick a new program or gym that I consider to be more fun. For example, I always hear people say that they hate running, but that they think they need to run to get in shape. Well, there are plenty of other exercise options that are also really good for you so, if you hate to run, don’t run! I, too, DESPISE running, so I won’t do it. Fitness, unlike a job that you’re required to show up to everyday, is a personal responsibility. How on earth can you expect yourself to show up every single day if you hate the exercise you’re doing or the gym you’re going to? Find something you LOVE to do. Don’t think you have the money to pay for a program or gym membership? Budget for it. Don’t think you’re an athlete? I’m not either (ask my family, they can confirm this). I just tried A LOT of different programs and gyms until I found something that made exercise fun; because, after all, this should be enjoyable.
Well, I realized that I’ve never properly learned how to lift weights, which would explain why I avoid the weight area of gyms like the plague. This is probably because in my Strength Training course in high school, my friends and I would sit on the mats, drink coffee, and do our homework while we were supposed to be completing a workout. I miiiiildly regret doing that… but, honestly, in high school, I thought the only way to workout was to be on the elliptical for 45 minutes. This is also why I never consistently worked out because, let’s be real, cardio machines are deathly boring.
Right before the turn of the new year, I joined a local CrossFit gym so I could actually learn proper lifting technique. (And, before you tell me that I can look this up on YouTube, I will tell you that I know, but that I need someone yelling what to do at me or I’ll never get anything accomplished). My original intention was to go to CrossFit 3x a week and then continue with Kayla Itsines’ BBG the other days of the week, with a rest day on Tuesday. Well, after a few classes at CrossFit, I was pretty hooked (which seems to be most people’s consensus on CrossFit). I decided to bite the bullet and commit to an unlimited membership so I’m able to go 6 days a week.
I’ve attended 6 AM classes at CrossFit this week and am really enjoying the structure, the coaching, and the atmosphere of the gym and the workouts. I leave feeling like I’ve accomplished something and that I’ve learned something new (form, technique, and just plain old lifting language (who knew there could be so many acronyms?)).
So, for my 2017 fitness resolutions, I am committing the first three months of the year to 5-6 days a week of CrossFit . My goal is to lose body fat (no specefic amount) and to gain muscle mass. If, after three months, I’m not seeing the results I want, I’ll reevaluate what to do going forward.
I’ll be sure to check in over the course of the year to let you all know where I’m at and what I’m up to! Here’s to a new year year!