As I was in the midst of my 17 mile long run yesterday, I was thinking about all the comments I have gotten lately about how I am crazy, how could I run such long miles every weekend, you are just torturing yourself, etc. For awhile, I thought maybe they are right. Why am I doing this to myself? But, then I realized, this is not something I have to do. I don’t dread running every week. In fact, I actually look forward to running. I crave it when I can’t. I enjoy being outside on Saturday mornings running by myself, listening to what I want to listen to, enjoying nature and just feeling alive in my body. I feel amazing afterwards. Endorphins are flowing. The feeling of accomplishment. The thought of how my body is adapting, getting stronger. This is not a punishment at all. It is a gift. I can do what a lot of people can’t do. I just absolutely love my life and body.
I think a lot of people look at weight loss as a dreaded process of counting calories, forcing yourself to the gym, not being able to eat your favorite foods. And, honestly, I think that is why it took me so long to want to even attempt to lose weight. It just didn’t sound like very much fun. That cheeseburger from McDonald’s sounded like a lot more fun. But, that cheeseburger maybe gave me 2 minutes of fun. Then, probably hours of guilt and a lifetime of constantly not feeling good. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think one McDonald’s cheeseburger is going to totally steer you on the path to unhappiness. I do, however, think it is easy to get into a habit where you look at food and other unhealthy habits as quick fixes to being happy. It wasn’t until I started getting my act together health wise that I actually experienced happiness that stuck around. I found the joy in being healthy.
I guarantee you that if you start your weight loss journey with the thought of deprivation, killing yourself at the gym, not enjoying a night out, etc., you are going to give it up almost as soon as you start. Because, let’s face it, if it isn’t fun, why do it? Instead, I would encourage you to look at everything you gain when you change your lifestyle. Look for things you want to do instead of things you feel you have to do. For me, I love food now than I ever have in my whole life. I love looking up recipes, I love trying new foods, I love cooking, I love sharing food with others, I love going to new ethnic restaurants and smelling/tasting a new spice I have never experienced. And, yes, I am vegan and absolutely love my food. I am not going to explain all the positives of veganism in this post, nor do I think you have to be totally vegan to be healthy, but my point is that you can enjoy healthy food. If you start looking at all the positives of healthy eating versus the unhealthy food you are giving up, you will stick with it forever.
This afternoon alone, I have really enjoyed a quiet day at home cooking granola, making a tempeh stir fry, cutting up fruit, etc. My whole apartment smells amazing. I have enjoyed snacking on delicious food all day. I enjoyed picking my food out at the grocery and looking at all the different fruits and veggies. I am going to share some of what I made today with my Mom and she is going to share some other vegan dishes with me. I feel amazing because I know everything I ate had what my body needs. It is making me stronger, I have energy, I feel like going for a run. Or, I could have just went and bought something unhealthy and enjoyed it for a couple minutes, have it not done much for my body, and felt horrible later on. When you look at it from this perspective, it is easy to choose healthy.
Now, I do want to be honest and say I didn’t turn this way over night. Oh my goodness, I had the cravings in the beginning. I used to love sweets, cheese, fast food. That is what I looked forward to all day. But, after a couple weeks, I stopped craving those things. I have read that unhealthy food is just as addicting as cocaine, heroin, etc, and I totally believe it. But, once you get it out of your system, you start feeling better almost immediately. So, if you are just starting out, hang in there for a little while. It does get so much easier. Then, you get to the point where you crave the healthy food. In the meantime, find other things that make you happy. Find a new hobby, go somewhere new, talk to an old friend, start a new book. Remember, this is a lifestyle change, not a diet. Most of all, I would encourage you to find some sort of exercise that you love. I started out walking because that is all I could really do. Plus, it just felt good to move, clear my head, and relieve stress. Maybe you would enjoy walking too, Or, perhaps you have a sport that you used to play or one that you have always wanted to start. Just find something that makes you happy.
Exercise does so much for you. Sure, it can help you lose some weight. Although, I really think diet is about 75% of weight loss. What exercise really does, though, is make you feel amazing. There is nothing like the feeling of a good workout. If you are not enjoying your workout, do something else. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try something else. Trust me, I tried a lot of different types of classes and found things I really didn’t like. For example, passing out in hot yoga class was not one of my prouder moments. Don’t force yourself to do anything. Keep trying new things until you find what fits you. What your best friend is doing may not be what you like. Although, exercise is a great way to form new friendships or strengthen old ones. I have made a lot of friends through running and it has helped me to reconnect with a lot of friends I hadn’t talked to in awhile. Every time you try something new, you are becoming more of who you are. Remember that. Find what brings you joy. Find what makes you you.
So, becoming healthy is not a death sentence. You gain so much more than what you lose. You get your life back. You feel amazing. You enjoy things. You get to the point where you really don’t care about that piece of chocolate cake because the rest of your life is so much better. You get to the point where food doesn’t control you. You find your happiness in so many other places. And, if you do decide to eat a piece of chocolate cake, that is okay too because you are living a healthy life. If you deny yourself something, all you are going to want is what you told yourself you can’t have. There are no rules. This is your new life. Own it and love it. Love the healthy and don’t let the unhealthy control you. Find the new, happy you! You are worth it!