Well into my twenties, I was big on crash diets to get my dream body. The Cabbage Soup Diet—check. The No-Carbs Diet—check. The Grape Fruit (or Pineapple) diet—check. The Juice Fast/Cleanse diet—check. The Extremely Low Calorie diet—check. Not that I was ever overweight, but I wanted to be VERY SKINNY. I think the juice fast was the hardest since I need to chew on something at some point during the day or I’ll go crazy. Almost always, my diets ended the same way—by the third day or so I’d be so hungry I’d give up and buy a giant box of chocolate and ten donuts that I devoured in five minutes only to feel like crap afterward. The day before I was set to go on one of these ridiculous diets, the mere thought of knowing how I was going to suffer the next several days made me overeat. I did manage to get to the end of the diet a couple of times. However, I unequivocally regained whatever I’d lost within a couple of months. At the latest. Usually, it took me only a week or two to return to my regular weight.
Embarking upon crash diets or generally starving yourself to get your dream body is OBVIOUSLY not the way to go. If you’re still considering doing a crash diet, please check out this article to find out how much damage you’re doing to your body.
When I was much younger, I was also big on extreme workouts in an attempt to get my dream body. Some days I’d run ten miles or take three body sculpting/step classes back to back. If I felt really energetic I’d do all in one day. The days I lacked natural extreme energy, I used dangerous dietary supplements such as ephedrine, a.k.a. ma huang. (Luckily, this drug was removed from the general market almost as soon as I’d discovered it.) In my mid to late twenties I taught fifteen-twenty group ex classes/week, yet I still had this annoying muffin top waist. I was a great example of someone whose body has gotten used to doing the same exercise over and over and over, drastically reducing its efficiency. Of course, thinking that, as long as I worked out like a maniac, I could eat whatever crap I wanted didn’t help getting my dream body.
Over-exercising is not only an inefficient way to lose weight, it’s also bad for your body no matter what your age. This article will give you a good idea how excess cardiovascular exercise hurts the heart and can be potentially fatal. In addition to threatening your heart health, your joints and cartilage take a beating from over-exercising. The thing is that, in your twenties, you likely wont realize just how bad all this exercising is for you because your body seems able to handle all the abuse. You recover fast from any little injury you acquire. So you keep pushing yourself, not realizing that eventually your connective tissue can’t take anymore. This is why it comes as a surprise to many as young as thirty when their doctor tell them they need knee or even hip surgery because of premature arthritis, or shoulder surgery because their rotator cuff muscles–the four muscles that surround the shoulder joint—are shot. This article talks more about the effects of overdoing exercise and gives you appropriate exercise guidelines. If you believe you may be at risk for over-exercising, check out this article for signs.
These days I lead a fairly balanced lifestyle, working out regularly—three to five times weekly—and trying to eat healthy. The days I don’t lift weights or do cardio, I walk a lot and choose the stairs over elevators. I make sure I sleep plenty and feel I have general control of my life, which helps me feel less stressed. Only as I’ve gotten older have I realized just how detrimental stress is to your general well-being. I work on my friendships since having a rich social life affects your health positively. I keep learning new things, trying to broaden my mind. Surprisingly, I’ve found it’s not only easier to maintain my weight, but I’m about six pounds lighter now that I’ve turned forty and become wiser. Do I have my dream body? Pretty much. I may not be the size zero I strived to be in my twenties, but I’m much better than I used to be despite that, being much older, it should be the other way around. And that’s good enough for me. (Photos used in this post are by my good friend and great photographer, Billy Coleman.)