Almost three years ago, I got home from serving a mission in El Salvador about 25 pounds heavier than when I’d left the U.S. eighteen months prior. In addition to having to adjust to “normal” life back at home, I was having to adjust to a completely different body shape and size.
Since none of my clothes from before fit and I definitely didn’t have the money to buy new ones, I decided to start exercising two hours 4-5 times a week at the nearby gym.
Enter my ex-boyfriend into the picture.
We were making lunch together in my parents’ kitchen (this was about a week before I was moving away to go back to school), and I was expressing my frustration that despite my many hours put in at the gym, I hadn’t lost any weight. In fact, my weight had gone up a pound (and not a flighty little water-weight pound—a real, honest-to-goodness, stubborn-as-all-get-out pound).
“Oh well,” I told him. “Everyone just tells me it’s because I’ve put on a pound of muscle, so I guess I’ll just have to keep sticking it out.”
My ex-boyfriend looked at me incredulously. “Well, everyone’s wrong, then. There’s no way you could have put on a pound of muscle—it takes Olympic athletes hours upon hours upon hours to put on a pound of muscle, and they’re working out 9-10 hours a day. That’s the biggest lie people tell you, but don’t believe it—you’re just putting on fat. I’ll tell you one thing—it’s probably due to your diet. You eat like this every day, and of COURSE you’re not going to lose weight.”
I looked down. We were eating pastrami sandwiches on whole-wheat bread (no mayo) and grapes.
But, since he was the one going to school to be a doctor and not me, I believed him. However, because what he’d said discouraged me more than anything else, I basically just tried to change my attitude about my weight instead of “pushing myself for nothing.”
A year passed, and I got married (to a different guy, thank goodness!). I was determined to lose the weight once and for all, and so I started to track my food intake religiously, slashed my calories down to 1200 a day, and worked out at least 3 days a week. Imagine my surprise when I found out that my lunch that year before that had been so disdainful to my ex-bf only had about 450 calories in it (a perfectly reasonable amount to have for lunch while on a weight-loss plan). My brain started to wonder if maybe he really didn’t know what he was talking about after all, especially when I lost ten pounds in just over a month (which has pretty much stayed off).
Fast forward to the next year: I was training for my first marathon, and my weight steadily was growing for about the first month of training, even though I was running about 25-30 miles a week.
“What gives?” I asked myself. “This seems grossly unfair.”
About a month into training, I unexpectedly lost four pounds in five days, without changing any other variables in my running or my diet.
And now, bring up the time to the present, where I have been faithfully running and strength training at least three times a week and fitting in walking wherever else I can to get rid of a few pounds I put on at the stressful end of my first year of teaching.
My weight went up a pound or two the first three weeks, and now I’m back to my starting weight.
Except this time, I got smart: I took my measurements weekly (which was about my only sanity-saver when, once again, my weight started to creep back up again).
So, this one’s for you, ex-boyfriend: proof that I CAN in fact gain a pound of muscle in under a month.
BEFORE STATS (Height: 5′ 5″)
Weight: 133.0 lbs
Weight: 133.0 lbs
Dear 23-year-old self:
Don’t listen to that ex-boyfriend who told you that you were going about it all wrong. Also, don’t keep thinking about that other ex-boyfriend who would count how many Dove chocolates you’d eaten and tell you that he thought you’d “had enough” after five or six. Keep exercising—not only will it save your sanity, but you WILL see the results you’re looking for: you’ve just got to take your other measurements (and not just your weight). Someday, not too far down the road, you will realize that your body is beautiful and strong and capable of more than you ever thought possible.
Always remember: IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE WEIGHT.
Your future (wiser) self