Debunktion Junction. Lesson 1: You Can’t Outrun Your Fork

My husband, Scott is a personal trainer. A really good one.

Once, he trained a senior citizen to climb to an Everest base camp. So, yeah… He’s legit.

Think I take advantage of my in-house trainer? Free super-trainer services for me?

Not on your life. Never, not ever.

It’s not such a good idea for a trainer to train their spouse. Can you think of a quicker way for a man to land on the couch than to yell at his wife to move her ass?

Me neither.

I don’t even like for him to watch me work out. There is only one man on this earth who has to find me attractive, and I prefer that he not see me as gross as I get when I sweat my face off.

I reap all sorts of personal trainer benefits, though. My man brings the Fitness Wisdom. Thanks to Scott, I have been deprogrammed. All of the BS fitness myths that are oddly pervasive in American society have been banished.

Want to be deprogrammed, too? Scott and I can help.

Enter: Debunktion Junction. In the weeks to come, I’ll be using Happy Exhaustion to do battle with the myths that get in the way of attaining our healthiest selves.

First on deck (because it’s the one that makes me the most crazy):
You Cannot Outrun Your Fork.


Ladies and Gentlemen – Lend me your ears! If you don’t regulate your food, no amount of busting your ass at the gym is going to slim you down. I promise.

When Scott explained that you can’t just exercise yourself thin, it was like he was speaking Swahili. What’s the point of working out if it doesn’t allow you to eat a pint of ice cream whenever it strikes your fancy? I’m supposed to work out just for health and strength?? Bummer.

But even if you hit the gym – even if you hit the gym every single day – even if you hit the gym HARD – it won’t make you skinny if you’re eating all sorts of things you shouldn’t.

Working out is essential to fitness and strength, but it’s not the key to weight loss. The key to weight loss is your food. Exercise can aid your diet, but it cannot BE your diet.

Trainers are constantly being blamed when their clients don’t lose weight despite all the workouts. But, if the client walks out the front door and heads to the pizza place for a slice and a beer, there will be no weight loss and there’s nothing your trainer can do about it. You’ll build some rockin’ muscles… you just won’t be able to see them under the fat you picked up from your food.

When I work out hard for an hour, I burn somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 calories. That’s roughly the same number of calories in my favorite blended vanilla Frappuccino.

It’s just math, but it’s hard to accept.

If you want to maintain your weight AND you want to eat a piece of chocolate cake, you have to go to the gym. But don’t fool yourself into believing your trip to the gym earned you anything more than a single piece of cake. That second slice is gonna get ya.

If you want to lose weight? You have to go to the gym and not have any cake. At all.

I know. I’m sorry. I wish it wasn’t true, too.

It’s sad, but if you eat more than you should, you won’t be physically capable of working out enough to burn it all off. You can’t outrun your fork.

Don’t quit the gym! Keep burning those calories and strengthening your body. Just don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. The gym can make you fit, but only your diet can make you thin.

Releasing the Supermodel


When you imagine the most perfectly honed version of yourself, does that person look a lot like a supermodel? I, for one, have spent a lifetime with a vision of Supermodel Self living in my head.

I think Supermodel Self is a natural response to cultural conditioning. We spend billions of dollars every year on products promising that there’s a skinny, toned, wrinkle-free, unblemished, gorgeously coiffed You just waiting to be set free. It’s why supermodels exist. They’re there to convince us that if we spend enough money, we can look just like them.

I remember watching a Pussycat Dolls video several years ago and thinking that if only I could lose the weight, I’d be built just like Nicole Scherzinger.

I mean, I’ve got an hourglass frame. What more do you need, right?

The thing is… I lost the weight. I gained the muscle tone. And, as it turns out, I’m your average human woman.

I finally understand – as long as I chase my Supermodel Self, there will always be something to pick on.

When you begin a massive physical transformation of any kind, you don’t really know what Transformed You will look like. Losing 100 lbs felt amazing, but it also revealed that my nose is bigger than I once thought. My face shrank around my nose, but my nose stayed the same. Also, my shoulders look wider when my arms and torso are smaller. Who knew? I had no idea.

Know what else happened when I lost all that weight? My once-proud tatas bailed on me. They are mere shadows of what they once were. It’s very, very sad.

So, what is one to do? Shall I sell a kidney in order to afford a boob job? And a nose job? I mean… the supermodel in my head cannot come to fruition without some serious surgical alteration.

While I’m at it, I should probably schedule some botox. I’m in my 30s now, and the lines on my face are beginning to show.

Do you think I need some hair extensions, too? My hair isn’t so full and shiny since having kids…

See how that cycle of thinking goes? There’s always something to pick on.

So, I have a new goal. I need to give my Supermodel Self her walking papers. She makes me feel bad about Actual Self. She points to my flaws rather than reminding me of my strengths. She thinks I should look like someone my husband and my kids wouldn’t even recognize.

I can’t be happy in my own skin as long as Supermodel Self is in residence in my brain. I need to release her and focus on being happy with what I’m lucky to have.

My boobs don’t stand at attention anymore, but they fed a couple of kids.

My post-pregnancy body may never again rock a bikini, but I can swim laps for an hour because the body wearing the mom-ish one piece is pretty damn strong.

I won’t be getting any surgery or hiring a beauty squad and air brushing team to follow me around. I will never be Supermodel Self. But I’m healthy and I’m strong. The sooner I embrace that, the better off I’ll be.

My ego will thank me.

The Metrics of Motivation


Since sharing the story of my hundred pound weight loss, I’ve been inundated with questions about how I did it. Most focus on what I ate and how I worked out. But before diving into the process of it all, I think we have to talk about getting started in the first place.

It’s not about IF you want it. It’s about how badly. It’s about why.

There’s no point in discussing low-cal recipes or running shoes if you’re not in a frame of mind that will allow you to reach your goals.

Losing a lot of weight takes a long time. It means enduring weeks – even months – of not seeing any change, and stubbornly refusing to give up. If your motivation is a high school reunion or a bikini season, you might be doomed to yo-yo or just throw your hands up in defeat.

I wasn’t able to do it when my motivation was to look smokin’ hot on my wedding day.

I couldn’t do it when the way I looked in clothes reduced me to tears in dressing rooms.

I couldn’t do it for vanity. And trust me, I’ve got enough to go around.

It took decades of yo-yo dieting before it clicked: Your motivator needs to be big & strong enough to beat the crap out of your daily, momentary desires.

I wanted to look hot in a bikini. But I didn’t want it more than I wanted to avoid physical exertion on any given day.

I wanted my husband to find me totally irresistible. But I didn’t want it more than I wanted to eat and drink anything that struck my fancy when we went out to dinner together.

My long-term motivators were too weak to overcome my right-this-minute desires for comfort and consumption.

My addiction to the yumminess is powerful, as is my general aversion to working til I sweat. These predispositions are hard to fight. Without powerful motivation to defeat them, it’s easy to rationalize, justify, and excuse unhealthy choices ‘just for today/this week/this holiday season’.

If you want to lose a lot of weight, but are well trained in the art of making excuses for yourself (I hold an advanced degree in this department) Step One is to find a kick-ass form of motivation. You need a motivator with the power to take on addictions and aversions.

Dig deeper than the pretty. Find something visceral, something without an expiration date.

You need something big, because you need to inspire your own full-scale lifestyle change.

Stop thinking about your diet. Start thinking about your top-to-bottom healthier new life.

There’s no way for me to know what will motivate you all the way down to your toes, only you know that. But here are a few things to consider:

Think about the people that you love. How many healthy years do you want to spend with them?

How about your family history? Are you genetically predisposed to Diabetes? Heart disease? Stroke? Wouldn’t it be nice to head that off at the pass while you still can?

Do you have people around you who look up to you? Kids maybe? Think you’d inspire them by modeling an active and healthy lifestyle?

I hate to put it like this, but you should consider scaring yourself a little.

The fear of sacrificing healthy years with my kids on the altar of my laziness lit a fire under me that even my wedding dress couldn’t ignite.

My 100 pound weight loss was driven by survival instinct. Vanity’s got nothin’ on this mama’s compulsion to be around for her kids for as many decades as possible.

When you find motivation that comes from your soul instead of from your vanity, you will be ready to do the hard work.

You’ll stop making excuses.

You’ll succeed.

Shiny Objects

Before surrendering to calorie-counting and exercise, I tried everything else under the sun.

Calorie-counting and exercise are hard, and I’m not a big fan of hard. I have a black-belt in letting myself off the hook when things feel hard.

Also, I rock at American Consumerism.

I was once the proud owner of an Ab-Swing. If there’s a more worthless piece of non-exercise equipment, I have not yet found it. “Just sit on a swivel seat and swivel back and forth! Your love handles will melt away!”

You name it, I was taken in by it. ANYTHING to avoid the hard work.

Once, my chiropractor’s wife told me that she had gotten her blood screened for inflammatory foods. She found that she didn’t tolerate corn well. And, when she eliminated corn from her diet, she lost 50 pounds Just Like THAT!

So, what did I do? I forked over more hundreds of dollars than I care to admit to ship vials of my blood off to a lab for screening.

“Surely the problem isn’t that I never move my ass at all! Surely it’s not that I eat too much! I’m just swollen from eating inflammatory foods! I’ll stop eating oats or something and my fat will magically melt away.”

Know what the results said?

I don’t tolerate lettuce well. LETTUCE! Oh, and cabbage, cucumber, lime & cauliflower.

You can imagine how the pounds just melted away when I cut out the dreaded lettuce and perilous pickles. (Hint: Not at all.)

My library of minimal-effort exercise DVDs is truly impressive. I have everything from belly dancing to Carmen Electra’s Fit To Strip. No, I’m not proud of that. But, hey – maybe walking slowly around a chair can get me a Carmen Electra body! Right?

I spent months and years of my life on diets that allowed me to avoid actually eating less. I cut fat grams, while munching on Twizzlers. Hey, they’re fat free!

I cut carbs.

I took ‘energy pills’.

I drank shakes.

I ate freeze-dried NutriSystem foods.

NutriSystem actually helped me to lose around 30 lbs when I wanted to look like a hot little number when I had to send my husband off to Iraq. But you can’t sustain a NutriSystem life without eventually sobbing into your meals.

If those weight-loss-powders (“Sprinkle some on your food and eat as much as you want while losing weight!”) had been  on the market before I figured out my fitness, I’m sure I would have busted out my credit card for that, too.

While every diet I tried worked a little bit for a little while, none of them inspired me to incorporate them into my lifestyle for the long term.

Every fad diet made me so miserable, I counted the MOMENTS til I could give it up. (And put whatever weight I’d lost right back on, but I didn’t like to think about that part.)

Nothing worked properly, because I was looking for an easy way out.

What it took me decades to realize is that there is no such thing as an easy way out when it comes to fitness. If there was, no one would ever struggle with their weight.

So, friends, take it from me: Save your money. Every ad that tells you they have the solution ‘when diet and exercise don’t work’ is suffering from a grievous case of Pants On Fire.

Diet and exercise always work. You just can’t half-ass it.

Hey, at least it’s a lot cheaper than blood tests and Ab Swings!