This week you will have the opportunity to read Part 2 of Sohee Lee’s great interview. In case you missed Part 1, you can read it here.
IS: We know that for a person who struggled with eating disorder it is hard to go in the gym and lift weights. There is always that fear that you might get bulky! How did you manage to cope with that prejudice? What would you tell women that are afraid of weights due to that reason?
SL: Interestingly enough, I never had that fear. For me, it was simply a matter of not knowing what to do. I remember back when I was in my endurance cardio days, I would go to the gym and zip right by the weights section, wondering what the heck people do in there. I’d stare at the equipment, feeling completely dumbfounded by how anyone could get in an effective workout by playing with some machines. I thought it was a complete waste of time – because by God, none of the lifters were sweating buckets, and you have to sweat to have a good workout!
It’s amazing the difference just a few years makes. Looking back now, the irony makes me laugh. My thought process has been reversed! After reading through various fitness magazines and combing through online fitness forums, I wrote up some training routines for myself and got to work in the gym. Never once did it cross my mind that I would get big and bulky.
For the ladies who are still hesitant to begin strength training out of fear, know this: I’ve been lifting for over four years and I’m the strongest I’ve ever been. I’m constantly pushing myself to pull and push more weight, and I still remain lean. Weightlifting is the foundation of youth; it helps sculpt beautiful muscles that make you look athletic and sexy. If lifting made me bulky, I would have quit a long time ago.
IS:Did you have a moment in your life when you regretted your lifestyle choice? A moment when you wished you were like other people, eating whatever you want and hanging around instead of being disciplined in the kitchen and in the gym?
SL: There have been many times when I’ve wondered what my life would be like now if I’d never been anorexic and bulimic. I think about what I’d be studying in school right now, what I’d be doing in my spare time, what would keep my fire burning and give me a real reason to wake up in the morning. It seems pretty morbid to say this, but I remind myself of what I was like before the eating issues arose – I was lazy, superficial, unmotivated, and generally had no aspirations in life. One of the few good things that came out of the eating disorder was that I suddenly cared – perhaps a little too much, but at least I was starting to pay attention.
It wasn’t just the food I controlled; my grades started improving also. I went from an average C student to a straight-A academic superstar. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend anyone develop an eating disorder to get their life in order (because clearly that’s the last thing that will happen), but it was a great kick in the rear for me to pick my ass up and do something.
If I hadn’t had the eating disorder, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with fitness all those years later. And if that hadn’t happened, I don’t know where I’d be right now. Perhaps I would have still ended up at my dream school, but likely not; perhaps I would have gone the pre-med route, or maybe I would have killed my time partying ‘till the wee hours of the morning. There’s a strong correlation, I think, between dedication to a fit lifestyle and upright character. I doubt I’d be half the person I am today if it weren’t for fitness.
IS:Do you use some kind of supplements and what is your opinion about them as a whole?
SL: The only supplements I take are fish oil capsules, multivitamins, and the occasional serving of protein powder. I used to think that supplements were some kind of magical pill and was an easy way to burn off fat. It makes me cringe to think about how much of my hard-earned money I wasted. People tend to forget that supplements are exactly that: they’re supplements. If you’re concerned about your health, invest your time and energy into your diet and exercise. When it comes down to it, nutrients from whole, natural foods will always win. I take the fish oil and multivitamins just to cover my bases. In general, though, supplements will not make or break you.
IS: A lot of people consider healthy eating and working out a burden? What gives you motivation to work so hard on a daily basis?
SL: Now that’s something I’ve never really understood. Taking care of your health should not be an option. You’re stuck with your body for the rest of your life; why would you want to abuse that? I understand that there are temptations out there – to procrastinate, to eat those donuts, to go home and rest after work – but the cost-to-benefit ratio is so strongly weighted over to the benefits side. It really doesn’t take much work to be healthy. It’s a simple (but not easy) matter of changing a few lifestyle habits.
To me, working hard for the sake of my health is a given. Training and eating right keeps me sharp. I not only feel better physically, but it also gives me the mental energy I need to stay on top of everything else in my life. The few times I’ve slacked off, I’ve noticed all other aspects of my life suffered also. Living this way has become second-nature at this point.
IS: A lot of people find it hard to stay on track with their diets. What advice would you give them?
SL: For most people, it comes to down to a matter of willpower. They’re drained, they’re tired, they can’t resist. While I can’t teach you how to increase your willpower in one paragraph (though perhaps I can give it a shot in a series of blogposts), I can provide one quick tip. Think of it this way: it takes about three weeks to establish a new habit. If you could stick something out for just 21 days – even just making one tiny, tiny manageable change and repeating that over and over – and if, at the end of that, it become easy to you – if that changed your life for the better, would it be worth it? Three weeks of conscientious effort in exchange for a lifetime of positive health consequences. Would you do it? Putting it into perspective this way – imagining a time in the not-too-distant future when doing something is no longer a struggle – makes the task seem far less daunting and much more feasible.
IS:How would you finish the sentence “I workout because…”?
SL: … it’s the cheapest feel-good medicine out there.