The Trouble With “Leaning Out”

So, it’s no secret that I’ve been working out a lot more lately.

Endless free time = going to the gym exactly when I feel like, no pressure to fit it in, and wonderfully lazy post-workout showers.

I spent a solid ~2.5-3 weeks very dedicated to building muscle. I followed a typical bodybuilding split like this:

Monday: biceps + triceps

Tuesday: legs

Wednesday: shoulders + triceps + abs

Thursday: back+ biceps

Friday: legs + abs

No cardio. My half marathon, while amazing, burned me out a little from running and I definitely needed a cardio break and a new focus. I ate a LOT, and got totally into the “bulking” mindset.

wafflesIt’s okay, I’m bulking.

And, then I started googling. Don’t get me wrong, I had already done a lot of research prior to/while starting lifting, but I didn’t learn a lot about actually gaining muscle until 3 weeks in. And found that I would need at LEAST 6 months to make any substantial gains.

Well, Emma, you can’t go to UBC looking all chubby now, can you?  Or so said the little voice inside my head. And such, I gave up on bulking and the “leaning out” process began.

I tried eating six small meals a day. I was starving and never satisfied.

dinner2I could eat this meal every 30 minutes and not be hungry…maybe. 

I tried eating 1800 calories a day. That lasted…0 days. No matter how hard I worked my body simply DEMANDED at least 2000.

And somewhere along the way, I started noticing changes. Although I wasn’t, am not, and have no desire to severely restrict my calories again, I’m feeling the way I did when I was trapped and lost in my disordered eating.

Thinking about food 24/7

Spending hours calculating macronutrients/”balanced” meals

Becoming anxious over eating out/homemade meals

Unbelievably exhausted all. day. long. –> as in, 9 hours of sleep at night + 1-2 naps per day. And still wiped.

I AM SICK OF IT! I am a seventeen year old girl who is supposed to be enjoying her summer. I am not a fitness model nor bodybuilder and nobody cares if I have a bit of extra fat on my body. The people at university are not all going to be bikini competitors (hello freshman fifteen) and they are not going to judge me because they can’t see my abs/obliques.


I’m not saying that everyone trying to lose some body fat and show off their hard-earned muscles ends up wrecking their quality of life. But it seems like, for me, whenever I try to achieve any extreme (super skinny, super fit) I get trapped and start falling to a dark, depressed hole.

I know what the answer for me is.

1. Letting go of calories (again). Don’t even ask me how annoyed I am with myself for starting to count again after kicking the habit at least twice. It aaaalllways starts off as “I’m just doing this to ______, I can stop whenever”, and then all of a sudden MyFitnessPal is open 24/7 and if it’s not in the database, it’s not in my mouth.

2. EAT REAL FREAKING FOOD WHEN I’M HUNGRY. In all capitals because it should so not be this complicated. A diet composed of oatmeal, smoothies, fruits/veggies, sandwiches, meat, yogurt and nut butter sounds perfect to me. Quest bars (all the time), whey protein and tuna salads…not so much.


3. Just focus on health. This goes back to the “leaning out” thing. On one hand, I would love to be ripped and look like Amanda Latona or Erin Stern. But on the other hand, I would WAY rather simply exercise, live an active life, nourish my body and enjoy every moment. I have six weeks left at home that will NOT be spent in depression, and eight life-changing months in BC after that (plus 3 years). Overall health > temporary appearance.

This is what, in my opinion, gets lost in a lot of people’s quest to “lean out”. No, I’m not talking about those with a lot of fat to lose. I’m talking about people like me (and leaner) that want to lose those vanity pounds and be super fit. I’m sorry, but if you have to weigh all your food and eat every 3 hours, with one cheat meal at  2:23pm on Saturday, that’s not sustainable. And if your lifestyle isn’t sustainable, neither is your physique.

I really need to thank Christine at Apple of My Eye for being such an inspiration to me. I love the way you go for bubble tea and thai food, skip the gym, but then go for a run and eat a salad. Not to mention that you are beyond STUNNING, and absolutely glow with health and happiness. I so hope I can be like you one day! ❤


I had to write that again because I find it so powerful and so so true. This is my new mantra.

No specific question…just tell me your thoughts! 


9 thoughts on “The Trouble With “Leaning Out”

  1. It’s crazy how slippery of a slope “healthy” eating can be, isn’t it? I’m blessed in that I’ve never had an eating disorder before, but I also have days where I’m feeling all bloaty and whale-like where negative thoughts cross my mind. I’m no expert, but my one piece of advice to you would be to try to stop classifying different versions of “health” (ex marathon runner, heavy-lifter, 1200 calories a day, etc) and trying to mold into them. You mentioned that “a diet composed of oatmeal, smoothies, fruits/veggies, sandwiches, meat, yogurt and nut butter sounds perfect to me” and I say go with what feels good to you! Your body really needs calories and I think stepping away from numbers (I NEVER weigh myself and don’t count calories) is what really helps me lead a happier and healthier lifestyle.

    Also, I’ve been typing this in a smaller document as I read your post and just got to the bottom section with your shoutout. TOTALLY made my day and I’m smiling like an idiot at my kitchen table and all my friends are asking me what’s up haha. You’re the best and I’m so happy that I can help, even if just a little :)!

    • I love that idea! It’s fine to take inspiration from different sources but I don’t need to be EXACTLY like any one of them. Thanks girl! Annnnnnd this is going to sound ridiculously cheesy but NO YOU are the best. 🙂 ❤

  2. I am so sorry that you started slipping again, but I’m so happy that you were able to pull yourself away from the disordered thoughts! It’s so frustrating how those can just sneak up on you. I really, really hope you deleted My Fitness Pal – that is such a trigger for me, even if I’m just doing it to “make sure I’m eating enough.” Keep enjoying your oatmeal, sandwiches, and whole foods because you are absolutely beautiful inside and out! Email me whenever if you want to talk 🙂

  3. It is really important that you recognize this now and have a plan to change. You are gorgeous and honestly you are being way way wayyy too hard on yourself when you say you need to lean out. You are already very lean! People at university will want to be friends with you because you are intelligent and loving and fun to be around- they won’t care at all if you can see definition in your abs or what number your jeans say. It is such a fine line with healthy eating and beginning to restrict and I wish I knew what the right balance was, but we have to have faith that we will find that balance 🙂

  4. Ohmygoose this is going to sound a tad freaky but..I’ve been thinking along the same lines. Not counting calories or exercising; simply contemplating on the body I want to exercise toward. And then I quickly stopped those tracks short..because darn it, I know venturing into that mindset is only going to prove detrimental to me right now – when I’m content with easy walks and stretches to FEEL GOOD. When I’m in the mood to do more, I guess it’ll happen. Back to the point though: good girl on shaking yourself out of it before it drags you down. Because think about it..what will striving to all those extreme lengths for the “perfect” body get us? Definitely not happiness, definitely not true friends, and definitely not true health. Since I’m using the word so bloomin’ much and my phone does not do the squiggly line; am I spelling “definitely” correctly?!

    • Hmm…it looks right to me! If it makes you feel any better, I couldn’t spell the word “business” properly until I was thirteen – I always wrote “buisness”. 😉

      Thank you so much. Feeling > appearance. ALWAYS! 🙂 🙂

  5. Pingback: A Peaceful Morning.

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