Today I want to talk about a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately: negative self-image and critical self-talk.
Last week, a friend and I were talking about how we’ve grown more comfortable with our bodies and appearance as we’ve gotten older. I mentioned how in my early twenties I cared a lot about makeup and even wanted to make it part of my career. I very rarely wear makeup anymore and some days I leave the house without even brushing my hair. Over the years I’ve become less concerned with what people think of my physical appearance.
Still, later that day the same friend posted a picture of me in her Instagram story and my immediate reaction was to criticize the way my stomach poked out and how messy my hair looked. I almost messaged her to complain but stopped myself and chose to respond with something positive instead. I thought about our earlier conversation and how my reaction to the photo was the exact opposite of what we had talked about.
The fact is, we are very often way too hard on ourselves. Most of the time when I observe something negative about myself in the mirror or in a photo, it’s amplified way more in my head than it is in real life. Most people never notice or care about the tiny things we see wrong with our own appearance.
I can’t count how many times I’ve had conversations with friends where they criticize the way they look in some way, and almost 100 percent of those times I see absolutely nothing wrong with their appearance. They’ll point out a pimple on their face or a hole in their sweater that I never would have noticed if they hadn’t called attention to it.
Over the years I’ve become gradually more confident in my appearance, but there was a time not that long ago when I looked in the mirror and felt ugly and didn’t believe anyone who told me otherwise. I was bullied in middle school and high school and at 31 years old I’m still not over that completely. I had horrible acne and there was a group of boys who liked to call me “buttface.” It’s funny how something so silly can have such a big impact on someone’s life, but as an impressionable teenager, it was earth-shattering. It caused my self-esteem to plummet and I’ve had a really hard building it back up.
Sometimes while posing for photos, I’ll purposely make a silly face to ensure that even if it is a “bad” picture, people will think, “well, she’s making a face so she meant for it to be bad.” I have friends who are only ok with their photo being taken if it’s from a certain angle to highlight their “good” side. We’ll have someone take a photo of us then immediately check it to make sure we look ok, only to have the photographer take more photos if we’re not satisfied with our appearance in the first or even second shot. I have several friends who aren’t comfortable having their picture taken at all because they can’t stand the way they look in them.
I don’t know a single woman who is 100 percent confident in her appearance, whether it’s because she feels fat or thinks her nose is crooked or is embarrassed by a birthmark on her face. I know this issue affects men too, but as women, we are constantly bombarded with makeup and hair ads on TV and in magazines. I often feel like I’m in the minority when I go out without makeup on. I’ve heard many women express guilt for not having the energy to wear more than foundation and mascara some days. I stopped wearing makeup for a few reasons, but mostly because I detest the idea that women need to paint their faces to look/feel acceptable in public.
I know that this is a societal problem that isn’t going to be solved with one little blog post but it’s bothered me for quite some time and I felt the need to talk about it. I think that we can start to help the issue by being a little kinder with the stories we tell ourselves about the way we look. Going back to the story from the beginning of this post, I could have easily messaged my friend and said, “OMG I look so horrible in that photo- take it down!” but I chose not to. I chose to not believe the negative self-talk. I chose to look at the situation logically and realized it’s never as bad as we make it out to be in our heads. Another person might have looked at the same photo and thought,” WOW! She looks great!” I’ll never know and it shouldn’t matter. Because the only thing that truly matters is the way YOU feel about you. That’s what I’m going to continue to work on and tell myself. And you should, too!
How do you combat negative self-talk about your appearance? Let me know in the comments!
After I wrote my post about My Unhealthy Relationship With Healthy Living, quite a few people reached out with questions about my current workout routine, my macros, and the body composition test I had done. I figured a follow-up post was in order, although I hesitated a bit because reading other people’s blogs about what they did to get to their “happy weight” is part of what led to some of my unhealthy habits to begin with.
So, let me stop right here and say that I am not a certified health coach, personal trainer or nutritionist. What follows in this post is MY personal regimen. MY macros are not YOUR macros. MY workout schedule is not YOUR workout schedule. What works for ME might not work for YOU. We’re all so different so it’s really important that you consult with a professional before making any drastic changes to your routine.
What I will tell you is that I’ve slowly lost around 20 pounds over the last six months. My starting weight was somewhere around 174 pounds, I’m currently 149 pounds, and my goal is to reach 140 pounds (although there is a lot that goes into this goal and I will explain more in the last section of this post).
To achieve this weight loss, there were no fad diets or trendy exercise routines–just real, hard work. I had a lot of support from my wonderful coaches at Strength Ratio, particularly Becca Lee, who met with me on multiple occasions to help determine and adjust my macros. Another tool that was extremely beneficial in helping me map out a healthy weight-loss plan was body composition testing and analysis with Reena of Get 2 Know Your Body (later in this post I’ll let you in on how to get $10 off your own body scan with Reena if you’re local).
I’m going to break this post up into three sections: my workout routine, my diet and a comparison of my body composition test results from May 2018 and September 2018. I hope this post is helpful to you and motivates you to seek professional assistance with your own path to a healthy weight and lifestyle.
My Workout Routine
It’s taken a few months but I finally have a workout routine that I’m completely happy with. One that doesn’t feel like I’m doing too much and that I actually enjoy. I think that’s the most important thing about finding a healthy, sustainable routine, you need to have fun. If you’re dreading every second of it, it’s not going to be sustainable on a long-term basis.
Here are the workouts I do in a typical week:
Classic Strength & Conditioning at Strength Ratio (4x/week)
I go to Strength Ratio for my main workouts and I’ve seen the biggest changes in my body as a result. Each session is a combination of strength-training and cardio. I’ve been a member for more than a year and the gradual increases I’ve seen in my strength and endurance are incredible. Keep in mind that I had hip surgery in January 2015 and even still, working with the coaches at Strength Ratio has made it possible for me to back squat and deadlift close to my body weight with no pain.
A lot of people look at the pictures and videos I post on Instagram and Facebook and assume that I do CrossFit. While the workouts at Strength Ratio might seem similar to CrossFit in that they share some of the same basic movements, the philosophy between the two is much different. I always tell people that workouts I do at Strength Ratio are much less intense than a Crossfit workout. As my coach Becca puts it, Strength Ratio focuses on providing a “sustainable model that people can follow on the long-term without feeling beat up or beat down.”
While CrossFit focuses on a constantly varied approach to exercise, Strength Ratio uses a progressive overload approach, meaning that we gradually build strength and technique performing the same movements over a several-week-long cycle instead of doing something different at every session like you would do at CrossFit. To that end, the intensity of each workout at Strength Ratio differs depending on where we are in the programming cycle, whereas each and every CrossFit session might focus on multiple high-intensity movements that are done as quickly as possible. I think both workouts are great but for me personally with my varied history of physical injuries, I prefer the programming at Strength Ratio because they also specialize in helping people who have been injured in the past.
This is the most empowering workout I do and I recommend it to anyone. In fact, if you follow me on Instagram, look out for a giveaway in the coming weeks for up to four personal training sessions with my coach, Becca (no former strength-training experience necessary)!
Spin Class and Yoga (2-4x/week)
Because I love having variety in my workouts and truly enjoy spinning and yoga, I try to throw them in a few times a week in addition to my training at Strength Ratio. While spinning and yoga are definitely great physical workouts, I do them mostly for my mind. Spin class is a great way to release all of my pent-up anxiety and energy and yoga centers and grounds me, plus helps to stretch out my sore muscles! I try to take 1-2 classes of each a week. Sometimes this means doubling up on a Strength Ratio workout and a yoga class in one day, but I always listen to my body and scale back if it feels like too much.
Rest Days (1-2x/week)
I always, ALWAYS try to fit in 1 to 2 rest days. I generally take the weekends off but I listen to my body as much as possible and take them during the week when I feel like I need to. This is really important for me because, as I explain in the other blog post, I used to feel a sense of guilt when I took a day off from working out.
When I first met with Becca back in March to discuss what to do about my diet, I was extremely reluctant to count calories. I really thought I had a good handle on what and how much I should be eating. This was the first time I’d ever consulted with a professional about my diet, however, and Becca made sure I did it the right way.
First, she used my weight and height to figure out my Basil Metabolic Rate: the number of calories needed to keep my body functioning at rest (i.e. sitting completely still, not even lifting a finger). From there, she took my physical activity level and determined how many calories my body would need to maintain my weight. We subtracted the recommended 500 calories from that and then the fun began: we figured out my Macros (Macronutrients)- the percentage of calories from Fat, Carbohydrates, and Protein I should aim to get on a daily basis. These percentages add up to my daily calorie allotment.
The idea of counting Macros seemed pretty confusing to me at first and it took a little while to get the hang of it but once I did, it all made sense and felt a lot less restrictive than only looking at calories. If you search the term “counting macros” on Google, you’ll find a lot of articles about “Flexible Dieting,” which is a great name for it, but also a little misleading because it’s not a diet in the most though-about sense- it’s more of a lifestyle. When you think about “going on a diet,” you probably think about restricting certain foods for a period of time until you reach your goal weight. Flexible dieting is different because no foods are off limits. You can eat whatever you want, as long as it fits within your macros.
That’s not to say I’m going around eating chips and donuts for every meal, because frankly that would make me feel pretty crappy and my workouts would suffer because of it (it’s all related). At the same time, if I want a donut, I’m going to eat one and not feel bad about it because I know that I am eating healthy, whole foods 90 percent of the time, which is really what Flexible Dieting is about: balance and moderation. Counting macros has completely removed my guilt around eating ‘too much’ or eating ‘the wrong food.’ I feel like it’s a much healthier and sustainable approach to “dieting.”
I am going to share my current numbers but again I want to reiterate that they are just that: MY numbers. Please don’t think of them as a model of what YOU should be doing for your weight-loss plan. It won’t work. I can’t stress enough the importance of meeting with a professional to customize your own specific dietary needs.
As a vegetarian, I often get annoyed when people ask, “BUT HOW DO YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN?” The truth is, most people don’t have a problem meeting protein requirements on a daily basis whether they eat meat or not. Because of my activity level, however, I am required to get a little bit more protein than most people to ensure that as I lose body fat, I don’t lose muscle mass as well and that I gain it instead. This is where being a vegetarian makes meeting my protein macro a little bit challenging but not impossible by any means.
I rely a lot on vegetarian proteins like eggs, nut butter, tempeh, tofu, and wheat gluten (AKA seitan). I really love Field Roast and Tofurky products for meat substitutes. I also use a whey protein powder after most of my strength workouts. I like SFH’s Chocolate Whey Protein powder because it’s grass-fed and not loaded with tons of fillers like some other brands. I personally think it tastes a lot better than others ones I’ve tried too.
Hitting my fat macro is fairly easy for me because I love avocados and full-fat yogurt and milk. Believe it or not, I have the most trouble hitting my carbohydrate macro because I don’t naturally crave carbs. This has led Becca and me to adjust my macros a few times to better suit my dietary preferences. We’ve also adjusted my macros based on the body composition testing that I had done, which is the perfect transition to the third and final section of this post.
Body Composition Testing and Analysis
When I began my weight loss efforts at the end of March, Becca suggested I get a body composition test done with her friend Dr. Reena Newton of Get 2 Know Your Body. I put it off for a while because at the time I was still in the denial phase of my weight gain and the test seemed like an unnecessary expense. That said, it’s turned out to be one of the most helpful investments I’ve made in my journey to a healthy weight and lifestyle.
There is so much that goes on in our bodies that a simple scale measurement can’t tell us. That’s where an InBody scan comes in handy. According to Reena’s website, the InBody technology uses “safe low level currents [that] are sent through the body through hand and foot electrodes. The current travels throughout your body water and encounters the different cells of your body (muscle cells, fat cells, skin cells, etc.) along the way.”
When we step onto a plain old scale, the number we see isn’t the whole picture at all. The InBody technology is “able to tell us about not only the amount but also the distribution of fat mass including visceral/belly fat.” It also determines the amount of water and skeletal muscle mass in our bodies. The results of this test have been instrumental in helping me determine a healthy weight for my body instead of some arbitrary number I decide on based on my BMI (Body Mass Index) or a health magazine.
What I’ve learned by having this test done twice now is that the number on the scale doesn’t matter as much as my overall body composition. So while at my last appointment Reena and I talked about my desire to lose another 10 pounds of body fat, that might not necessarily mean the number on the scale will change much as I build muscle to replace that fat.
The results of my second test, which I had done last Wednesday, are truly incredible. Judging by the way my clothing fits and the changes I’ve physically seen in my body when I look in the mirror, I knew that I had lost a significant percentage of body fat and the test results just confirmed that. Over almost a four-month span I’ve lost 5.5 percent body fat and my visceral fat level (the dangerous, disease-inducing fat that accumulates around the organs in your stomach) has dropped from 17 to 13.
Another reason why an InBody scan is incredible is that it measures each segment of your body separately. The results were able to tell me how much fat I’ve lost in each arm, leg and my trunk as a whole. While the test also makes suggestions for fitting into a certain weight percentile based on BMI, Reena points out that that number can be skewed by several other factors and as I said above, the number on the scale doesn’t actually matter as much as your body composition as a whole.
I really love going to Reena for testing because she spends a whole hour explaining the results and answering any questions I have about how I should customize my weight-loss plan. Although she’s a doctor and the results can be a little confusing to someone without a medical degree, Reena is very straightforward and makes the science behind InBody really accessible to someone like me who didn’t know a thing about it until I stepped into her office in May.
Because Reena is also a great person, she’s agreed to give my local readers $10 off their own InBody scan from now until the end of the year. Simply visit her website Get2KnowYourBody.com to schedule your appointment and mention that you read about her in this blog post! Her office is located inside the Inspired Change Yoga Studio in Biltmore Park. *Note: Blogger disclosure laws require that I tell you that Reena provided me with my second test at a discounted rate. As always, the views and opinions expressed on Rosey Rebecca are my own and I will never promote a business or product I don’t stand behind completely.
Overall, I feel a lot healthier in my day-to-day life. It took a while but I finally found the right tools to help me succeed on my “weight-loss journey” (quotes because I hate that term). That’s not to say that my approach to health and fitness won’t change over the coming days, months, and years, but for right now, my body seems pretty happy and that’s really the most important thing! If all I’ve succeeded in by implementing this diet, exercise routine, and overall view of healthy living is a healthier and more loving relationship with my body, then that’s pretty all right with me.
I hope this post has been informative and motivating to you! Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you might have!