What happens to your body when you get fit and lose weight

Pretty much everyone wants to lose weight to look better. But hardly anyone talks about the changes in your body that can make you feel better when you start to get fit and lose weight after years of, well, sitting on your arse.

So let me talk about a few of the changes I’ve experienced.

I sleep better. I used to suffer from the three a.m. nasties. You know – waking at three in the morning, and not finally falling asleep again until ten minutes before my alarm was due to go off. These days a proper night’s sleep is the default, not the exception.

I’m in a better mood. My family and friends are less likely to catch grumpy me, and far more likely to catch serene, content me. The difference is striking.

My skin and allergies are better. I’ve struggled with asthma, allergies and eczema all my life. These days you wouldn’t know it. Rashes are rare, I don’t need an inhaler (unless I come across a dog or a rabbit), and I barely touch antihistamines. My eyes are no longer puffy and red in the mornings either.

I don’t get earwax buildup any more. An odd change, but really noticeable.

I don’t get tartar build-up on my teeth any more. Another weird improvement. Go figure. I always thought tartar had something to do with water quality and getting old, but apparently it’s bodily wellness. Who knew?

I’m looking okay these days, for an old bird. I’ve more improvement to make, but I’m on my way to wellness.

Change comes from persistence. As does wellness. We don’t become healthier from one meal, or one “good day” but from real transformation repeated daily, over and over again every day of our lives.

We can get better. Those of us who are obese can become fit and well again. The slide into poor health and misery is not inevitable. It takes commitment and support from family, friends and groups such as Overeaters Anonymous, but we can do it. We just need to believe in ourselves, and believe we are worth the effort necessary to change.

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My bodybuilding program

Below is my current plan at the gym. I lift heavy, and most exercises are 5 sets of 6 repetitions.

Once I find I can do 5 X 6, I increase the load. I have some micro plates which are really useful for this – they fit an Olympic bar and come in .25 and .5 kg increments. Very useful for female lifters and bodybuilders.

Rest days at present are usually Saturday and Sunday. Others days I go for walks, and may occasionally add in some light cardio on the bike or rower.

DAY 1 (upper body):
• Bench
• Rope push down
• Machine seated fly’s
• Machine rear delt flys
• Shoulder press machine
• Hammer strength decline press
• Barbell curls

DAY 2 (lower body):
• Front squats
• Romanian deadlifts
• Leg press
• Seated calf raises
• Leg extensions
• Lying leg curls

DAY 3 (upper body):
• Deadlift
• Dumbbell row
• T bar row
• Lat pulldown
• Front raises
• Side raises
• Barbell row
• Dumbbell fly’s

DAY 4 (lower body):
• Squats
• Leg press
• Leg press calf raises
• Leg extensions
• Lying leg curls
• Hip abductors
• Glute ham raise
• Glute bridges

DAY 5 (upper body):
• Overhead press
• Dumbbell shoulder press
• Dumbbell press
• Dumbbell incline press
• Hammer curls
• Preacher curls
• Kettle bell shrugs

Sometimes you just need to rest

This weekend I rested and did a re-feed.

I knew I was exhausted. I’d been gymming hard, and had reached the point of becoming weak on every exercise.

So this weekend I took a break from weights. I did a re-feed yesterday, being my calories up for the day from my usual 1321 to 2000. I also did no exercise at all, apart from a little bit of gardening and housework.

Then today I’m keeping my calories slightly raised at about 1600, and kept away from the weights again. I went for a lovely walk for a couple of hours out on the peninsula, and followed it up with 15 minutes on the bike at the gym, before a nice long shower to wash all the sunblock and sweat off me.

It was perfect weather for a walk out on the peninsula today. We’ve had over two weeks of sun since Christmas – unusual for Dunedin! I don’t want summer to end!

So now I’m sitting and relaxing. I’m the only one at home, and the peace is blissful. I’m back at work tomorrow, and really wish I had more time at home to enjoy the sunshine and warmth!

Why a re-feed?

Re-feeding can be a useful tool so your body doesn’t get too used to being in calorie deficit and slow your metabolism down.

Plus, it also feels like a quick pick-me-up.

Even one day of re-feeding and already I feel more energised and able to cope with life.

By Friday last week I was feeling drained and exhausted, but now I’m feeling refreshed and positive again, with lots of energy.

The main thing to watch with re-feeding is that it doesn’t turn into craziness or binge eating. Adding 500-700 calories to your normal pattern should be plenty to wake your system up again. It certainly feels right for me.

Why rest days?

Everyone needs time away from the gym. Even gym rats like me 🙂

1-2 days a week of no lifting gives your body a chance to heal, rest and recover, ready for more gains the next time you hit the weights.

I’ve just created a new program for my lifting (I’ll post it in a second), which gives me 5 days of weights plus 2 rest days, which I can either take consecutively or whenever I need them.

As an older female lifter, I definitely need my rest days, but even young teenage guys need to rest and recover. Everyone does.

I’ve enjoyed my rest and re-feed, but I’m looking forward to hitting the weights again on Monday!

Planning to compete in physique – at age 52? I must be crazy!!

I think I’ve gone crazy. I’ve decided to compete.

The class?: Women’s physique.

The competition?: Women who are all likely 20 years younger than me.

The reason?: Probable insanity.

I’ve a lot of work ahead of me. From this point on, now I’ve made my decision, I’ll be aiming to shed 1% of my body weight until I’m down closer to competition weight, which for me is probably around 70 kgs. I’m nowhere near that at present.

I’ve also got to put a lot of muscle on, particularly on my legs. Luckily I’m someone who grows muscle easily, but there’s still a lot of work in my future.

Then, because this is women’s bodybuilding, there will be things like hairstyles, manicures, pedicures, hair removal, makeup, tanning and sparkly bikinis to think about (men have it much easier – they just have to prance about in a very small Speedo). Thankfully there are no stripper heels in the physique class, or I’d be sure to trip and break my neck. Thankfully!

I haven’t mentioned this to my OA sponsor yet, but I think she’ll be supportive. She’s a marathon runner, so she understands what goals are – even impossible ones. I think she – and the rest of the OA gang – will absolutely cheer me on and be supportive of me doing this. They’ve seen the changes in me since I started at OA. They know how transformed I am, both inside and out.

My husband and family will support me too. I know they will. My husband was a bodybuilder for a long time – we met through the gym – so he understands the process. He’s thinking of going on stage too, so it’s possible we may even do this together.

Part of me is very scared now I’ve decided to take this leap. Mainly I’m scared I’m simply too old. I’m scared of injury, and of hurting myself.

But I won’t know if I never try. There are older women than me who have done this and succeeded. And I can’t make myself younger, no matter how much I might want to, to make things easier.

It’s not going to be easy. But it will make me a better person. Which is what I want to be.

Diet + gym = happiness

I’m loving my return to the gym.

I’m finding that I sleep much better, and just feel better overall.

Gym keeps me sane. I forgot how well it keeps me sane, and wish I’d never stopped going. But covid happened, and everything ground to a halt, and the gym was closed.

Then when I could have gone back, I didn’t.

However, I’m back now.

I’m feeling very weak in comparison to where I was – I’m back doing baby weights again.

It’ll soon improve. I’m taking things very cautiously, as I don’t want to injure myself. It’s easy to forget I’m not young any more! (I’m in my 50s now…yikes!)

But I am loving the movement. I love feeling better about myself. I love eating better too.

I’m fully aware these days that junk food, like drugs or alcohol, is addictive. And I am an addict. So I have to keep away from junk, or it sets me off, the monster inside is released from its cage, and everything goes to hell.

I’m better off just eating well. I’ve learned from experience that I can’t control myself with certain foods, so more and more I’m just ruling them out of my life. That doesn’t mean I’m fully successful at ruling them out. But I’m doing the best I can.

Today’s food is prawns (well, shrimp really), and asparagus for lunch. Dinner will be chicken and asparagus. 1 cup of chicken, and a fair bit of asparagus (I’ve learned that I don’t have to count or limit green veggies).

So that’s where I’m at. Still doing OA, still eating well (mostly), and still doing gym every weekday.

Life is – dare I say it? – good. 😁

Fasting is a high-level sport

Have you ever pursued a sport to a high level? I have. I was a long-distance runner for a while in my youth, then a competitive rower, and far more recently I did bodybuilding and weightlifting.

Sportspeople deal with pain all the time. It’s part of the deal. Any weightlifter or bodybuilder can tell you how much it hurts to get up a set of stairs after a good, hard leg day! It can be agony (ever wondered why weightlifters don’t like houses with stairs?) Yet in some weird way, you look forward to the pain, and even enjoy it, because you know that it is a part of achieving your goal.

Likewise, runners and rowers and all kinds of competitive sportspeople go through pain too in pursuit of their goals. Even a good long walk can leave you aching the next day. We know this is good for us, we enjoy it, it’s part of the whole package, we accept that, and we feel great as a result. Discomfort is part of the deal, but the rewards are overwhelming.

Fasting is similar. It can be a challenge and at times it can be uncomfortable. The most difficult part is the work that goes on between your ears – getting your brain on right, planning how you’ll deal with challenges, seeing the road ahead of you and knowing you have the resolve to get the job done.

START SMALL

Just like a long race, or a heavy set of squats, I believe fasting is easier when you work up to it. I started with part-day fasts – skipping breakfast, then delaying lunch more and more until I could skip it altogether. Then I missed one day of food, then two, and so on. If we started our new running hobby by attempting a marathon, we’d probably fail. By starting with smaller goals, we achieve success and that encourages us to strive for more and achieve larger goals if we choose to.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE

Yet, just like a marathon or lifting weights, this is not a competition against anyone else except yourself. Fasting is about self-mastery, not competition against someone else’s body or weight or age or ability. Your goal should always be to find your own personal best, not to topple or discredit someone else’s achievement.

So think of yourself as an athlete, in the fast lane. Fasting is a powerful tool – perhaps the most powerful health tool we have available. It would be a shame to refuse it, simply because we’re afraid to try.