The Shred is over. Sadly, I did not place…nor did I really lose any weight according to the scale (though it appears my body composition changed for the better). However, I feel better, and I think I look thinner, and I beat a couple of my personal bests. So that’s something. What did I learn? Mostly, I learned that trying to lose weight during finals is really, very difficult. Here’s why:
Diet is everything. As for most people, my diet will make or break any weight loss attempts I make. Normally, I am really good at following the 80/20 rule, but over the last month, that all went to hell when my stress level skyrocketed and my sleep level dropped dramatically. This, by the way, is not atypical of graduate students – at the last class/party for one of my seminars, every single person there talked about how terrible their eating habits had become. EVERY SINGLE ONE. And this is not one age group, mind you: we had moms, young people, older people, commuters, and people who live within a mile of campus. Every single one of us was like, “Yeah, I haven’t been that good…lately…” Part of that is because when you spend multiple hours in the library, your priorities tend to shift. Eating and sleeping well, sad to say, tend to drop down a few spots, making losing weight nearly impossible.
A schedule is key. I credit a lot of my success – getting my 400m run time down to under 2 minutes and my 500m row time to under 1:50 – to being able to come into the gym at relatively the same time every day. Making a habit of exercising in the morning actually broke me of my need for caffeine – which was GREAT during finals, let me tell you – and made me feel generally good for the rest of the day. However, when my classes stopped and the reading period started, my schedule went out the window, and I found it extremely difficult to keep going to the gym at the same time. I would go in later one day, wake up early the next, and completely miss the next day because I overslept. Not good.
Stress is a jerk. This one encompasses the first two above, but it’s worth stating outright: stress will actually undermine your goals. Some people can easily reduce their stress levels through exercise and exercise alone. That’s awesome. However, that’s not how everyone works, and through this finals period, I found out that I am more reliant on food as a coping mechanism than exercise. I also stopped sleeping well or regularly, and you can find lots and lots of studies that have found a link between stress and lack of sleep with a rise in cortisol…which leads to tummy fat.
Measuring my success and progress by a number on a scale makes me crazy. This is probably the most important thing I learned over this Shred. Yes, people who weigh themselves regularly have a higher rate of success because of accountability. Yes, it’s a great way to track your progress and set short term goals for yourself. But I realized that weighing myself was only making me anxious and stressed and was actually undermining my progress. I decided to focus on how I felt and how I looked, and I think I actually made some advances in both those categories.
For the next Shred (and you know there WILL be a next Shred, so don’t worry if you missed out on this one), I know that I am going to try harder to do the following:
- Create a sustainable schedule and stick to it
- Drink more water
- Focus more on fitness goals to mark my progress
- Increase my cardio
- Eat more greens
The best thing you can do when you fall short of your goal – which I did, as I did not lose 10 pounds – is look back at what happened, figure out what went wrong and what went right, and then move forward with those tools in hand. Ultimately, I am the person who is going to be responsible for my own success, and what works for me may not work for the next person or vice versa. I got this.