Is it really just a matter of working hard? Wanting it badly enough? If it were, we’d all have fabulous bodies. Motivation, inspiration, setting your mind to it, programming your mind for success…when it comes to weight loss and fitness, none of it really gets the hard work done. Stuff like that can be a distraction and for some of us, even a discouragement.
I’ve received some interesting comments, posts, and emails on my recent blog post about images of extremely athletic people when used as “motivation.” The truth of our bodies is that we do not all start from the same place, our abilities are not all equal, and our bodies cannot all achieve the same results. In some aspects, it’s just not possible; in others, it’s just not realistic. I like to use myself as an example, because, well, I’m available for detailed study.
Back in 2009 my weight was very stable in the 170s and my overall health was great for a 49 year old woman. I’d maintained my weight loss for a few years by then and I worked out with a trainer regularly. I was expecting that my weight should be dropping but it wouldn’t budge. I got a bit ambitious and decided to try powerlifting to add some muscle. There was a really hardcore trainer at my gym so I switched to working with him. He recommended that I also work with a bodybuilding consultant he collaborated with so between the two of them I was on a very intense 12-week program of lifting heavy, daily cardio, and an extreme professional-style diet.
Earlier that year I’d had the extra skin removed from my upper arms. At a follow-up appointment, my plastic surgeon’s photos revealed the results of my exercise and diet regimen:
Looks pretty impressive. But these photos don’t tell the whole story. First, what’s realistic. As the twelve weeks pressed on, I became increasingly stressed, struggling to maintain the intensity of the training and the diet. Yes the results appeared to be sensational (more on that in a minute) but I really was not enjoying the schedule. I’d made the commitment so I stuck with it but I really wanted to let up on it. The work it took to achieve these results was more than I was willing to do to maintain them when I factored in what’s physically possible.
What you don’t see in the photo has to be taken into consideration. The rest of me didn’t match my back. Because of my weight loss I have stomach flab. It’s not serious; it’s about what I’d have if I’d had a few children. I’d love to be able to get rid of it but until I can afford a basic tummy tuck, it’s live-able. So for all that hard work, I would not have a flat stomach, no matter what. And then there are my disproportionately larger hips and legs. It’s the way I am built and the way I’m going to stay unless I have a thigh lift which is a very difficult surgery. I’m really not sure how far down my weight would have to go and how hard I’d have to work my glutes, quads, and calves to dramatically alter the appearance of my lower body. I already know even if it were possible, it’s more work than I’m willing to undertake.
You may be shocked to know that my weight changed only four pounds by the end of the twelve-week regimen. And no, I didn’t drop below 170, the number my body seems to love the best. Being a woman and at my age, the weight change would be the combination of fat loss and muscle gain but the amount of muscle was probably about a pound and a half, if that much, in my estimation as an NASM certified trainer.
For many factors, including my gender, age, body type, and weight history, I could never have a ripped, athletic body, no matter how hard I worked at it. I’ve made the decision that based on what I learned from that incredible 12-week experience, there’s a limit to the level of physical (muscular) fitness I am willing and capable of maintaining. I continue to work conscientiously at maintaining excellent cardio health—that’s where I place my highest priority.