“We now return you to a post already in progress.” If you’re just joining the fun, feel free to head to my home page and check out Part I of this post. Or you can start from here and be mildly confused. Both are great options.
I’m a carb kid. I was not prepared for the week long sugar detox. The body aches, the sweats, the headaches, the wearing two shirts, a sweater, a hoodie and flannel pants with two pairs of socks while under a down comforter, chills. No one told us about that part. No one brought it up in class for fear of looking weak. We were a “family”.
Over the course of the next six weeks, the class format rarely changed. New exercises, new lists of torture but never any instruction on how to safely execute each exercise. I took it upon myself to do research at home. People began showing up in braces, wrist splints, or not showing up at all and just fading away. “There went their $200!” I would think, as I continued holding a plank. I wanted to lose weight and more importantly, I needed that money back.
Pounds were shed, skins got thicker.
Each week I would continue to weigh in and drop a pound or two. The two girls that I had partnered up with at the start were not losing. One had an autoimmune disease. The other had thyroid issues and it made it very hard for her to lose weight. She had told them that. They still gave her the same food plan as me and told her “our program works”. Eventually her doctor told her what she was doing was ridiculous and that the caloric intake they had given her could potentially cause her to gain weight, not drop it. She change her diet in secret, added in some more carbs and immediately dropped weight with the modification and workouts. She was too scared to tell them because anyone who thought they knew better would be kicked out of the program.
We came to find out during the 6 weeks that our Nutrition Consultant had previously been in bikini model world championships. She had worked out so hard, and eaten so badly to drop weight quickly for competitions, that she now had a multitude of acquired food allergies, thyroid disease and heart issues. Our meal plan had been designed around her competition diets. When I asked her about using other cooking oils that were potentially better for you than olive oil, she didn’t know what they were and as a result told me “absolutely not”. When I talked about using certain spices on my ground turkey, she told me if it wasn’t on the list, I was not allowed to use it. Spices. That have zero caloric value and ridiculous amounts of holistic health benefits. She didn’t cook anything. She lived in the land of meal prep and tupperware. Our lives began to mirror hers. Cooking became a task to complete. We had to eat every two hours so by the time you finished cooking and eating, it was time to start prepping more food. I refused to do “Meal Prep Sundays”. I like fresh food, out of the pan and on to my plate. Justin and I lived separate lives when it came to food. We no longer ate together. Something we had always enjoyed, cooking and then eating a meal, was put on hold. I was alone at the table. It sucked.
My inner voice that I had silenced at the start began to scream out that I knew better than she did. I knew my body. I knew and recognized when something felt right or wrong. I was not the same person as the other girls in my group. Our needs were different. Our bodies we different. Quietly, I started changing my program too. Sometimes Justin and I had the same meal. It was scandalous.
I began to see dramatic changes, I lost weight. I felt great. I was employed again. I was able to buy M gym leggings instead of XL. It showed. My skin was improving, my energy was up. I received compliments and people begged for my secret. I refused to tell them. Not because it was something I wanted to keep for myself, but because I didn’t trust it. I didn’t want to put someone else through what I was going through.
As we moved closer to the final weeks, I started to plateau. I began to panic. I needed that money back. The competitive side of me started to think I was failing. I couldn’t be proud of the 16 lbs I had lost, that didn’t matter. It wasn’t 20. I started getting angry that the starting weight they were using had been taken a week before. Not the day we started. How was that fair? What if I had weighed MORE at the start of the workouts than the day I had my consultation? What if I had already lost the 20 and didn’t know it? Everything became a numbers game. I started to lose it. I started starving myself and weighing myself multiple times a day. Every time I used the bathroom, I would immediately weigh myself to find out how much I had pissed out. I was quite possibly the strongest I had ever been in life and looked fantastic but it wasn’t enough. The obsession had started. The dark spiral of women and weight loss (another topic all together), had finally begun. I cried. I worried. I sometimes did two workouts a day. I’ll give you one guess whose advice that had been. I drank insane amounts of water. Then panicked because what if I retained the water weight? I was desperate. I took water pills in secret the last two days and didn’t eat a single thing. I almost passed out at work because I was so dehydrated and hungry. I pretended I was just feeling sick. It was the darkest mental place I’ve ever been in my entire life.
I did my final weigh in. I stripped down to my sports bra and the smallest, lightest shorts I had. Every ounce of clothing counted. I had lost 20lbs. I felt nothing. I was tired. I was mentally exhausted. I needed sleep.
Our celebration was to have a gym-wide pot luck where everyone was supposed to bring the fattiest foods they could imagine. It was a binge session. The person who brought a beautiful salad was actually verbally abused by the owner. We were encouraged to bring all of our dream foods. Everything we hadn’t been allowed to eat for 6 weeks. They ordered massive pizzas, and soda. There were cakes, cookies, brownies. It was like the food scene in Hook. This celebration took place on the same day that we did our final weigh in. So those of us who had lost the 20 lbs (or more), were able to look at it as a reward and those who had not, lost $200 and were able to eat their sorrows away and perpetuate the cycle that would keep them enlisting in boot camps.
In the weeks that followed, I continued on at the gym and continued to lose. I put my $200 towards two months of paid membership, and noticed how most people from my bootcamp session had left the gym. The ones who had “failed” as our instructor so lovingly put it, most likely are now put off by gyms, and are left with potential life-long injuries from lack of instruction on proper form. When it came time to renew, I said “I’m out.” and moved on to a gym closer to my house. My “family” never even asked about me when I stopped showing up so that says it all. They had their $200 from me and the $5200 from the rest of my class. Not to mention their second location that also had a class of 2o+, the current boot camp attendees, and the class that was about to start. You do the math.
So what’s the point? Did I lose weight? Yes. Am I incredibly thankful for the opportunity to better myself & my health? Of course. Did it turbo charge my passion for fitness and nutrition? Absolutely. Did I continue to find new fun whole food recipes and relish the time of day where I got to create a meal? Sure. Did it play mind games with me and send me over the edge to a place I never thought I would go? Yep.
The point is that this program, while effective for some, myself included, was irresponsible. They created a program with zero accountability to the long term quality of health of it’s participants. A few of my friends signed up later (against my advice) and didn’t lose the weight, lost the money and have now out of depression added at least another 10 pounds on out of stress, anger and disappointment. There was no pre-workout counseling, there was no checking in to make sure we were all reading the same book let alone the same page. There was no proper coaching on technique, form, asking about previous injuries, or modifications for those who needed it. There were no “suggested reading” topics regarding nutrition and how to make it work for you. It was just “You’re fat. Here’s how to not be. If you can’t do this, it’s only because you don’t WANT to.” Their success stories haven’t changed. The same people are paraded out almost two years later at the informational sessions. The same food list is given. The same threats are made. And business is booming. The Biggest Loser culture has taken over and we expect fitness to be combative and abusive. This is not to say that there aren’t a plethora of fantastic boot camp style programs out there. A college friend of mine runs one of the most successful programs in NYC, but he does it the right way. With the participant’s health and safety at the forefront of the program and he maintains that from start to finish.
In the time since I participated, I’ve fluctuated by 8 lbs and it’s ok. I still panic at times and wonder what people will think of me. I sometimes wear a L instead of a M gym pant when I’m working out. I still work out. I continue to learn about myself and the needs of MY body when it comes to physical activity. I’ve also learned a lot. I’ve started the process to become a Certified Nutritionist so that when someone tells me about their new restrictions, I can trust myself to have an intelligent conversation with them and discuss healthy options of diet modification. I now pour over cookbooks and relish the opportunity to create in the kitchen. Justin and I continue to try exotic recipes, cook with spices, avocado and olive oils, ghee, and eat FULL FAT gelato. Because that’s what it’s about. Moderation not restriction without research. Creativity, finding a physical activity you love that keeps your health. Enjoying the process, the journey, and the community of it all.