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The Trouble with Intensity

Nov 30, 2021

Four months ago, I was training intensely in the gym to complete as a body builder. This has become a new dream of mine. I’ve been overweight or obese for most of my life. Standing up on stage as an athlete was my personal way of putting that past life in the grave for good. It was the ultimate triumph. After nights of crying over my weight and starvation diets that left me sad and hungry, I would be able to stand up and say, here I am. I showed up for myself.

So, four months ago I was training. And, as I was training, I started to feel a slight pain going down my left arm. It felt like lightning. I shrugged and kept training. Over the course of about a week, this pain grew stronger and stronger. Even though the pain was growing, I kept telling myself, I HAVE to get through this workout.

I didn’t tell my prep coach was what happening. I didn’t lift lighter weights. I just kept going.

After about a week of this, I found myself in a beautiful gym in Panama City. Instead of the pain being a light pain in my arm, it was now an intense pain, radiating through my entire left side.

And yet, I kept saying to myself, I have to get through this workout. I remember doing a one-arm exercise with a heavy dumbbell and wanting to cry because of the pain. But I just had to get through this workout.

I’m sure you can guess that this didn’t end well for me. I got to a point where the pain was so severe I had to leave the gym. I waited week after week for it to get better, but it never did.

So, why am I sharing this with you? Because it’s all too familiar to me.

Years ago, I would display the same obsessive behavior while I was dieting and trying to get to a weight loss goal. I was obsessed with being perfect, all the time, no matter what. If I messed up, I would believe it was the end of the world.

I remember, one time, I was on a 60-day diet. And, boy, I’m not kidding when I say I worked my ass off. I might have worked harder than I ever had before. It was day 60, the day before my weigh-in. I hadn’t been out with friends or done anything fun in a long, long time. So, when an old friend called me up to hang out, it was like music to my ears! I got ready with excitement and headed over to see my group of friends. When I got there, the music was playing, the sun was out, and the vibe was amazing. Everyone was having such a good time. My buddy grabbed a beer from the cooler, cracked it open, and handed it to me.

“It’s nice to have you here, Jules.”

I looked down at the beer.

“Oh, what the hell,” I said to myself. And I took a drink.

I had a few beers that day, and I even had dinner with them. It was the best night I’d had in a really long time. There was only one problem. Weigh-in was the next day. And because of my amazing time with friends, I had a bad weigh-in. I beat myself up horribly. I made myself feel awful.

“How could you go 59 days and then screw up on day 60?” I asked myself.

It was almost as if the other 59 days hadn’t even counted.

Because I was so mad at myself, it led to me giving up and binge eating for several days. As a result, a lot of the hard work I did was reversed.

When I look back on this story, it makes me feel sad for my younger self. I was working my ass off, and I should’ve been proud. But how different was it to right now?

I’m sitting here with a sore shoulder from a cortisone shot. I’m waiting to get my MRI test results back, and I’m in physical therapy for my arm—which turned out to be my shoulder. I haven’t worked out in four months. Haven’t been able to. And I was just thinking to myself, once again I pushed myself to the brink of total collapse. I injured myself because I couldn’t let myself take a break from lifting weights. As a result, I haven’t been to the gym in four months. That means I’ve missed about 96 workouts.

Similarly, I used to push myself so hard, that I’d inevitably give up. My “cheat meals” would turn into “cheat weekends.” And then a “cheat week.” And then a “cheat month.”

It reminds me of a phrase my old boss used to say. “Ma’am, you’re so busy looking at the ground trying to pick up pennies, that dollars are flying over your head and you don’t even notice.”

Do you know what the most elite athletes in the world say is their number one tool for success?


And CEO’s of million-dollar empires?


We just have to accept the fact that we “aren’t going to get them all.” Not every meal will be a perfectly healthy plate of food. You won’t go every single day saying no to a cookie. And for gosh sake, if you’re arm is hurting while you’re in the gym, GO HOME and rest it for a week!

It’s not the little cheats that stop us from reaching our goals. It’s the fact that we let the guilt over these little cheats de-rail the entire effort. What if every time you snuck into your cupboard at 2AM for a cookie, you shrugged your shoulders and said, “Ahh, I’m human. I’ll forgive myself.” And moved on and went back to focusing on your goal? How much further do you think you would be right now if you hadn’t let one bad meal turn into a bad weekend? Or a bad week?

I know that, for me, embracing this humanity thing has been an ongoing struggle. Learning to not sweat the little stuff, to let go of the day to day, has been a practice. Leaving my perfectionism on the floor has been a practice. But if we can learn to master this, and if we can learn to be kinder to ourselves, it will make this weight loss journey so much easier and so much more enjoyable.

Love, Julia


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