A personal journey to getting fitter and healthier
That’s how long it took me to see weight and inch loss after embarking on a #100dayfitnesschallenge. The challenge rules were simple: to exercise a minimum of 30 minutes every day for 100 days straight. And full disclosure, mamas: the number one reason I embarked on this challenge was because I felt like a hypocrite.
You see, I’m a nutritionist who specialises in post-natal makeovers. Every single plan I create integrates exercise. And I – I was not practising what I was preaching.
Sure, I was going to the gym twice a week, but my heart wasn’t in it. I could feel and see myself getting softer, wider, weaker. Energy levels were dropping, and my Inner Sloth was beginning to emerge, whispering in my ear: “You’re so tired today Cristina…listen to your body…rest, sit, watch another episode of ‘This is Us’…all will be well if you just sssssit”. That Inner Sloth is as convincing as the Sugar Beast in enabling poor choices.
But one Tuesday, I was with a post-natal client who was just rocking it. She was 100% committed to the dietary guidelines, kicking serious butt with her exercise routine and even getting in her “me time”. She was amazing! She trusted my advice, went all in and was seeing fabulous results. And I knew right then and there that I had to rise up for two big reasons:
First of all, my clients are inspiring and deserve a nutritionist who is all in with them in every way. But also, at the very centre of my nutrition strategy is LOVE. I am the “SLEEP LOVE POOP” nutritionist. I did a whole TEDx talk on it! I wax lyrical about making food choices based on how much love, kindness and respect they show our body and mind.
And exercise is an act of love. The human body is designed to move. Exercise builds our gut health, which is crucial to our immunity and mental health. It helps us detoxify and regulate our hormones. It is critical to our physical and mental resilience. So, I called bull%@*t on my Inner Sloth and committed publicly to a #100dayfitnesschallenge.
The journey started off a bit bumpy. By day four I had forgotten that my 10-hour flight to Melbourne would essentially mean I couldn’t hit the gym. So, I did a 30-minute power-walk lap around the airport boarding area, which was horrible mostly because my natural deodorant did not cope well, and I was smelly the whole flight.
But hey! Sometimes we can’t let perfect be the enemy of good. And by day 25, I noticed a major mental shift. I began to find a way to exercise – not an excuse not to!
I also realised that the daily exercise was helping me cope with some serious emotional turbulence. I lost a close friend to cancer a month into the fitness challenge and for about a week, I cried every time I went for a run. I couldn’t help myself. Her death brought up other emotional trauma I hadn’t finished dealing with and the treadmill became my therapy session. I’d pump up the volume on my Beats, crank up the speed and run through the heartache, anger and overwhelming sense of loss.
Exercising every day has also allowed me to explore other fun ways to be active. Before, because I was only exercising twice a week, I felt under pressure to make those sessions count, and I started resenting them. But now, I really enjoy them because I’m balancing them out with other forms of exercise I’ve been wanting to get into, such as yoga, Pilates and stretching. I even have a few favourite videos that I do at home that are super challenging, give me a great work-out and have improved my flexibility, posture and core strength.
But alas – one BIG problem unexpectedly emerged:
Whilst weight loss wasn’t my number one goal, I did want to track weight and inch loss over the 100 days to have motivating data – not just for me, but for people embarking on their own fitness journey. I was convinced that 100 days of unbroken exercise would result in a fitter, leaner me. At the very least, I expected to see consistent and rapid inch loss around my waist, thighs and butt.
Well, let me tell y’all, I was not happy when, after 42 days, NOTHING HAPPENED! Not a pound or inch lost. I mean, life lessons, being worthy of my clients and showing myself love are all cool but the vain woman in me was like WTF.
The fact I hadn’t lost any weight was demoralising suddenly, instead of looking in the mirror and seeing all the positive accomplishments of my fitness challenge, I only saw the pounds I couldn’t shift. That sense of failure made me feel ugly and unworthy; two emotions that are so void of love that I knew I had to re-frame my fitness challenge.
So, I dug deep and asked myself: what’s not right with your diet and fitness regime at this point? Two issues surfaced:
Coffee, and the fact that my cardio routine was not designed for fat burning. So, the first thing I did was cut out the coffee. I love coffee, but coffee does not love me. And yet, like a bad boyfriend I keep going back to it, thinking that maybe this time things will be different. But I know full well the cortisol spikes and dairy do me no favours. Cortisol is a major reason for weight gain and not being able to lose weight. That’s why chronic stress can cause weight issues particularly around the belly. And that’s what happens to me. So, I kicked coffee to the kerb, an act that served as a worthy reminder that whether we’re talking toxic food or relationships, we’ve got to love ourselves better and cut that toxicity out of our life.
The next thing I did was change my running workout. Up until day 42, my aim was endurance. I wanted to run for longer than thirty minutes. My aim was to get to 45 minutes and then start to shave time off my 5k. A worthy goal but not one that was serving me in terms of fat burning. Instead, I went back to what sports research consistently tells us about fat burning and exercise and began to incorporate more sprints into my run and added to it, some skipping rope and bike sprints. That brought me off the treadmill in less time (yaaay!) and made the whole session seem shorter overall.
A week later, I saw a shift. And granted, it often does take over a month to start seeing weight loss results. But, I truly believe these two changes unlocked my fat burning potential.
So, for all you mammas out there struggling with weight and body image, here’s what I know to be true, 65 days into my fitness challenge:
- Eat foods that show your body love and avoid the ones that don’t. They will help you detoxify daily (a.k.a poop), reduce bloating and water retention, and ultimately lose weight.
- Incorporate sprints into your workout to burn fat and lose in inches. It’s a proven strategy, not just because of my recent results but because the sports research backs it.
In short, choices motivated by self-love and evidence-based research will help you reach your goals. It is a winning combination that will serve you time and time again.
I am so close to finishing my #100dayfitnesschallange, which is huge because I never thought my lazy butt would make it past 10 days. That makes me feel fiercely proud and accomplished. But I’m not going to lie; my thighs better be leaner by the end of it. And that, my dear mamas, is the fine line between strong vs skinny that I will continue to walk well past my 100 days. Because I choose both, without shame. I choose both, with an equal amount of love.