Avoid carbs and do cardio
Maddy Moon over at Mind Body Musings wrote a great post about what happened when she gave up cardio. It resonated with me because I too used to rely on cardio, fueling my long cardio sessions with a "No pain, no gain" mentality and the fear that if I didn't get a killer sweat session in, I'd instantly gain weight.
For years, we've been told by diet fads and fitness magazines that in order to be skinny, we must avoid carbs and do cardio. Carbs will make us fat and cardio will keep us skinny. And if you must lift weights — do high reps and low weight so you don't get bulky.
I followed these rules. I ran at least 4 miles every single day.
At mealtime, I always skipped the bread. The hamburger was always without the bun and I didn't even look at pasta.
I did all this because I "knew" that if I ate carbs and stopped the killer cardio sessions, I'd get fat.
Then I read an article somewhere (I don't remember where, but it was probably a fitness magazine) that defended carbs. It was convincing enough for me to give it a try. I started eating more carbs as an experiment, though I still "knew" deep down that they would make me fat.
But I didn't get fat.
In fact, I felt more satisfied and stayed fuller longer when I ate healthy carbs.
And then I read, probably in the same fitness magazine, that weightlifting was better for women than cardio, and that we should be lifting heavy. This same fitness magazine probably had told me years before to avoid weights and stick with cardio, but I believed whatever they told me so I gave it a try.
I cut down on the cardio and I started lifting weights. Again, as an experiment. But that voice inside still told me that it wasn't going to work; that I would at best get bulky and at worst get fat.
But I didn't get fat. Or bulky.
It was hard for me to admit to myself that everything I believed about health and fitness was wrong.
Habits are difficult to break. In yoga philosophy, our habits and patterns are called samskaras. Our samskaras are molded by our upbringing and conditioning. The more we repeat samskaras, the more they are reinforced, until we've created a deep groove in the brain that is difficult to change.
This can be a good thing if the samskara is positive, such as loving others. But it can also be negative, leading to low self-esteem and self-destructive behavior.
The good news is, we have the power to change. We can exchange our negative samskaras with positive ones. It doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen, and it can dramatically change your life for the better. It has mine.
I let go of the belief that eating carbs and avoiding cardio would make me fat. I also let go of the belief that being fat made me worthless. I stopped treating fitness magazines as the Bible and started trusting my own mind, body and intuition above anything else.
Fitness magazines are fine. I'm not bashing them. I still read them, as well as some blogs/sites dedicated to health/fitness. But none of those sources know my body and mind better than me. I am the expert in me, and while I can definitely learn from experts, I have to ultimately do what makes me happy.
Sometimes I eat a lot of carbs. Sometimes I don't. I run, I lift weights, I practice yoga, I meditate, I sleep ... but it's all motivated by the desire feel good, rather than the fear of being fat.
I stopped avoiding carbs and divorced my unhealthy relationship with cardio. And you know what happened? Peace. Peace happened.
Oh, and I didn't get fat. But that's kinda not the point anymore.