You don’t just wake up one day with muscles. You don’t look down at your stomach and boom a six pack appears. You don’t flex your arms and out pops a firm bicep. You don’t do one squat and end up with perfectly-sculpted Carrie Underwood legs (That one’s for you, Tyler).
We all should know that’s the case. It takes time to lose weight and it takes even more time to develop muscles, but we tend to forget this because of social media.
What you see
It’s actually amazing how many people (at least on my Instagram feed) have taken up fitness. Whether they have made it a career, a hobby or a passion, they plaster it everywhere, and rightfully so. It takes hard work to build and maintain your body, but that’s not how it seems to you and me.
To the ordinary person, it seems like those people begin going to the gym and wind up with insane muscles two weeks later. One day you see the first post of them working out at the gym and the next you’re admiring their flat stomachs or rock-hard abs. It creates the illusion that their bodies transformed quickly, when that is most definitely not the case.
What you didn’t see are the weeks leading up to their strength. They didn’t show you videos of them just learning how to operate the various machines. They didn’t reveal week-by-week progress shots of their bodies, showing how slowly it takes for change to be visible. They revealed it in a big look-who-I-am-now fashion.
People are working for the before and after photos, but rarely show the in-between.
How I started
Back in April, I got something called an InBody assessment done at the wellness center at work. Basically, it was this big machine that measures a person’s fat and muscle, among other things. It prints out a sheet, which the health advisor goes over with you, detailing the amount of fat and muscle you have on your body and where it is located. It’s pretty cool, actually.
The results of my April numbers told me that I was lacking on the muscle front (which I totally expected) and a little higher than I should me on the fat front (also expected). I went into this telling myself, “Okay, this is my starting point,” and was excited to see how I could get better from there.
I talked to the health advisor and told her what I wanted to accomplish, being adding muscle to my wimpy frame, and she gave me suggestions on what exercises to do and what I should be eating. I walked away more excited about working out than I had ever been. My next InBody assessment was scheduled for June, and I couldn’t wait to actually put numbers to my progress.
(This concept of actually putting numbers to my progress is extremely important, and I’ll tell you why in a minute.)
However, if you stay up-to-date on my posts/life, you may know that my life was pretty hectic between April and June. During that time, my boyfriend and I renovated our house and moved in, which took way longer than I anticipated. When I left the wellness center in April, I expected that we would be finished with renovations and moved into our house in two weeks. Turns out, it took five.
It was five weeks of late nights; endless hours painting, sanding, staining and the works; pizza; McDonald’s; and definitely not going to the gym. I was not able to begin working out until TWO DAYS before my follow-up appointment (which thankfully got rescheduled, giving me another week).
As I’m sure you can guess, I made no progress at all. In fact, I actually LOST muscle during that time. I explained what happened to the health advisor and set my sights on our next appointment in July.
July came up quickly, and after sticking to a consistent workout schedule (which I will also explain later), it was time to see if I actually made progress. I can’t even explain to you how nervous I was for this. I was practically shaking when I stepped on the machine.
The health advisor printed off my results, highlighted some numbers, punched them into a calculator, looked up at me and said, “Wow, you’ve made some great progress!”
I almost did a happy dance. Seriously.
Before I tell you my numbers, let me emphasize one thing—I gained weight. I repeat. I. Gained. Weight. Proof that the number on the scale is not a reflection of your overall health. Just wanted to get that in there. Now, onto the results.
Not only did I gain almost two pounds of muscle, but I also lost about 1.5 pounds of fat. Knowing this fueled me because I could actually see, on paper, the difference in my body and I wanted to continue to see this. I wanted to push myself to keep making progress. (My next appointment is in September, so I’ll let you know how it goes.)
While I was so proud of myself for making physical progress, it came with a huge mental change, too.
Changing my mindset about exercise
I used to have an incredibly unhealthy way of exercising. I did it because I hated the way I looked, not because I wanted to improve my overall health and well-being. I did it to eliminate my insecurities, and when that wouldn’t happen fast enough for me, I gave up.
Time and time again, I would go to the gym almost every day for two weeks straight, and after each workout, I would go home, lift up my shirt and turn and twist myself to make my stomach smaller.
At the end of the two-week stint, I would get frustrated that there wasn’t any change, and I gave up.
I was in a vicious cycle of doing this over the course of about two years, and I didn’t know why. I would tell myself I wanted to work out to be strong and healthy, but I knew deep down that wasn’t the case. I wanted to work out because I hated the way I looked, and that was my problem.
I didn’t realize this until I came across this picture while scrolling through Instagram:It dawned on me that I was doing this exactly how I was not supposed to. That’s when I knew things needed to change.
So, I truly began exercising to make myself stronger, not skinnier. I started focusing on what was improving on my body, not what I still need to change, and being healthy overall, not targeting specific things about myself. I began exercising and eating better to have a better life not a better body.
In between the before and after photos
That’s when I took a realistic view of how I needed to accomplish this. This needed to be a lifestyle change, not a method of losing weight. Therefore, the whole working-out-every-single-day-until-I-wanted-to-die trend needed to end.
My exercise regimen consists of going to the gym three days a week. Yes, only three. I could potentially get myself to go to the gym four or five days a week, but I know that’s not sustainable long-term. I didn’t want this change to be temporary; I wanted this to become my new normal.
I’ve been consistently doing this since June, and I am just beginning to see results, and it’s not in the sense going home and picking my body apart in the mirror—doing that is toxic, and I am so glad those days are behind me.
Instead, I’m seeing results by increasing the amount of weight I’m using at the gym. Noticing that I feel more comfortable and confident as I walk around. Feeling my jeans fit a little looser and wearing shorts more than I used to (Tyler said I was beginning to get Carrie Underwood legs. I think he’s being too nice, but I’ll take it).
I’m also seeing results by looking in the mirror, but it’s different this time. Instead of focusing on how I look and noticing how I feel, I’m focusing on how I feel and noticing how I look. If I’m feeling great about myself, I’ll snap a quick photo to track my progress, but I don’t make this a regular occurrence. I don’t wake up and go, “Well it’s Friday, and that means I need to take a picture of myself,” because I think that is partially why I picked my body apart so much to begin with.
Those photos that I take when I’m feeling good are to look back on and see when I started to get a slimmer waist or more defined arms, not to show myself what still needs to change. I refuse to constantly compare and pick apart my body, even if I’m comparing it to my own body a few weeks ago.
As I saw my body and mind changing, I knew I wanted to write about it. At first, I told myself, “No, don’t write about it now. Wait until you really hit your fitness goals, then tell everyone,” but then it hit me—everyone waits until they’ve hit their goals, not when they’re in the midst of achieving them.
No one talks about how slow your body (and mind) is in this whole process. They don’t tell you how you notice your muscles developing in stages, not all at once. They don’t tell you that there will be parts of your body that you’re still uncomfortable with, but others that you’re so damn proud of.
I may not be completely “fit,” but I’m getting there. I don’t have quads and hamstrings that are noticeable when you look at me, but when I’m exercising you better believe I get excited when I see my baby quad show itself to the world. I don’t have a flat stomach with defined abs (Hell, I still have a bit of belly fat), but I am seeing my hips shrink and my waist tighten.
I’m almost fit, meaning I’m not quite there, but I’m getting there, and that’s something to be proud of.
Living in “almost fit”
Transforming your body and mind is quite the journey, so it’s important to enjoy the ride, so here I am, telling you it all in the hopes that someone will read this and begin his or her own journey.
You just have to start out small. Celebrate the little accomplishments (Like seeing your baby quad!), praise yourself for what you’ve done, not for what you still need to do and remember that so many of us are living in “almost fit.”
Stay here a while, there’s no rush. You’ll get there as long as you keep doing what you’re doing.
As I embarked in my newfound lifestyle, I noticed myself screenshotting body-positive messages. I looked at them to remind myself why I’m doing this (especially when I was guilting myself for eating junk food). Hopefully they help you as much as they’ve helped me 😊