When I was 20, someone told me that running would ruin my goals of strength training and it deteriorate my hard earned muscle. Ok, noted. So no running if I want to be strong, lean and muscular.
When I was working at Boston Sports Club as a new trainer, I read in Women's Health Magazine that eating carbs will make you fat. Ok, so no bread, pasta, pastries or cakes, EVER. They will make you fat and sluggish. And what's worse, you will crave more after just one bite. Noted.
A fitness model that I followed on facebook posted once that alcohol will absolutely sabotage a healthy diet and lifestyle. It is a mask for deeper feelings and it is chock full of empty calories. There is no room for that in your healthy diet. Noted.
For most of my 20's, I was living my life according to these rules. Rules that I read in a magazine or heard from a trainer or nutritionist. I was so afraid of gaining weight and being fat that I would avoid social situations and delicious food outings because I was afraid of breaking my rules. I was exhausted, terrified and unhappy.
These rules were controlling my life.
Nutritionists, personal training colleagues, fitness magazines and the USDA all had their opinion of the "rules" that I should live my life by and what will help me find the right balance for my healthy life. But none of them felt right to me. Were these people right?
Never eating carbs again if I want to be lean? That doesn't feel right to me. Hearing the rule that pasta would ruin your diet, even if enjoyed in a romantic waterside cafe in Italy, did not make any sense to me. You mean I can never have pasta? It's off limits forever?
Understanding that alcohol has no place in my life and that it is a crutch to cover my emotions or feelings? Huh, that's funny because I actually find myself more liberated and open when I have a glass of wine.
Running will break my muscle down and I won't be able to sustain that muscular build I was hoping to have? Well, when I had nothing to do but run over Christmas break in Connecticut, I actually felt stronger and leaner than I did when I was lifting and not running. But if you say so...
Slowly, I started to see a pattern. It wasn't until after I started dating my now fiance that I realized how controlling my food and exercise was. That these rules that I had been living by were built by this little world I was living in (and fear of getting fat).
I remember it, clear as day, the first bagel I ate in almost 6 years. Alex took me to a famous breakfast spot after a leisurely Sunday morning spent in bed. Everything was perfect. I felt so peaceful and in love. And since there were no more options other than delicious breakfast sandwiches, I decided to not be the controlling girl I used to be and order what I wanted. As I was given the sandwich, I took a bite and began to cry (silently).
I was scared that after even just eating half of the bagel sandwich that I would be fat and lose control of my eating. I was scared that I would binge on 4 more sandwiches because that is what I used to do when I allowed myself those indulgences.
But ironically, I didn't feel the need to binge. As scared as I was, I ate the sandwich and grabbed his hand. I didn't need another sandwich or a milkshake after, or even the need to throw it up. I felt something that was missing in my life. And that was being happy. I was full and it wasn't from food but rather the freedom to chose and not lose control.
There are no rules. And learning to say "no" to the things that deserved it is what changed my body and health. I no longer had to put things in the "off limits" category unless I really thought they needed to be off limits! Like dried cranberries or Cosmos. That was a list that I made and decided over a period of time by listening to my own rules and learning to say no to what wasn't right for me.
When I was truly happy, I was full. And that made all of the difference.