Instructors Struggle, Too
I used to half-jokingly tell myself that as a Spinning instructor, I could eat whatever I wanted and as much as I desired. After all, I rationalized, I taught at least four classes each week, and must be burning hundreds of calories.
With that attitude, I ate to replace all those thousands of calories that I imagined that had burned off in class. I had no idea what I was putting in me, except that it stopped me from feeling hungry. Half of a deep dish pizza was my weekly fare, with leftovers the next day “as a snack” between meals. If an apple a day was supposed to keep the doctor away, then three would insure that I could skip a few checkups. Free food at events was an invitation to take at least two portions.
THE LIE EXPOSED
But as the case with all lies, cracks eventually started to surface. I noticed, for example, that climbing the stairs to the elevated subway platform left me gasping for breath. How could that be? Wasn’t I aerobically fit? I was sufficiently concerned to ask my doctor for an explanation, and he gave me the perfect rationalization: “those stairs are steep.” Of course they were.
I am lucky that in late 2011, one of my students mentioned that she was a journalism major working on a story about how to stick to New Year’s resolutions, and that she wanted to interview me for her story. The interview consisted of her videotaping my answers.
That videotape opened my eyes. I saw that I was out of shape. My face was full, and my arms had no definition. When I looked in the mirror at home, I saw that the rest of me was out of shape.
I don’t know why, but everything came together: my being out of breath, the image in the videotape, the lack of muscle tone, the number on the scale.
I decided to do something.
If you’re like me, you probably had some vague idea about how to change things you didn’t like about yourself. I would tell myself, “I should start lifting weights,” or “I should probably lose a few pounds.” But left to my own devices, I had no idea how to implement those changes on a lasting basis.
So I decided to hire a personal trainer. I know there are other ways to make lasting changes, like having a workout partner, or joining a boot camp class. For me, I needed someone to keep me accountable to my decision to change.
I told my trainer that I wanted someone to kick my butt. She did that, and more. She suggested that I track my exercise and food intake on myfitnesspal.com, which showed me that my Spinning classes burned roughly 440 calories and that I was eating approximately 3,000 calories. A surefire recipe for weight gain.
She also showed me strength and flexibility exercises to challenge my body. While I don’t completely understand the physiology, it seems that if you keep doing the same exercise repeatedly, the body adapts and takes the attitude of “yeah, so? What else have you got?”
I am fortunate to know people who suggested that I try new foods. Like fish. Or vegetables. Strange new foods, like kale or quinoa.
At first, the results were barely noticeable. Starting at the end of 2011, I was just under 200 pounds. But slowly, I noticed the weight coming off. At the end of January 2012, I dropped below 190 pounds. In March, I hit 180 pounds, and stayed there. Until April, where I dropped to 175 pounds. In six months, I lost 35 pounds, and kept them off. Some of my students mentioned that they had small children that weighed that much. If I need a reminder, all I need do is pick up a 35 pound plate to see how much extra I was carrying around.
But the results went beyond the weight loss. I had to buy new jeans and have my suit pants taken in. Then dropped two pants sizes, and the tailor took six inches out of my suit pants’ waistline.
My doctor insisted that my weight loss wouldn’t have much impact on my cholesterol levels. He was wrong.
My bad cholesterol levels tumbled 20 points, and my overall cholesterol dropped over 10 points.
I’m no longer living the fitness lie. I know that there are consequences for what I do and what I eat. If I want to eat deep dish pizza and chocolate, I can if I’m willing to accept the consequences.
But most important, I know that I’m not alone in my struggle to stay fit.