Mistakes I’ve Made & What I’ve Learned

By Rachael Attard, Updated Nov 11, 2019

I’m always pretty honest about mistakes I’ve made in the past. And this is because I know they are common mistakes that many other girls make. So if I can help you avoid these same mistakes and learn something then my work is done!

So here are my mistakes and a bit of my story:

1. Starved myself to lose weight

I think a lot of us have been here. You want to lose weight so you think you need to cut back your food intake and feel hungry. It is one of the things I struggled with the most.

There was a period in my early to mid-20s when I wanted to lose a few kilos so I didn’t eat dinner. I thought that I shouldn’t eat after 5pm, even if I’d been to the gym after work. I’d come home, have a shower, and go to bed hungry. My housemate must have thought I was crazy!

The result? I lost a little bit of weight but struggled to get my weight down past a certain point. A little while later when I did some research on healthy eating and healthy recipes, I tried again. I exercised but tried to eat a better diet most just by cutting out junk food. I still ate bread, oats, dairy, etc. And I ate 3 meals and 2 snacks per day. The result? I lost MORE weight than when I wasn’t eating dinner.

When you starve yourself, your body doesn’t know when it is going to eat again so it actually holds on to fat stores – not what you want! The trick for me was knowing when to eat. If I thought I felt hungry but wasn’t quite sure, chances were that I wasn’t really hungry. Knowing when you are actually hungry and need to eat is important and only you can figure that out. Another thing that helped me was to eat a moderate amount of food at each meal. I didn’t stuff myself so that I was so full and wanted to lay in a food coma. I ate until I’d had enough and then that meal usually kept me going for the next 2-3 hours.

RELATED POST: HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR IDEAL CALORIE INTAKE

2. Being underweight

OK, so there was another time in my life when I was about late teens to early 20s where I also wanted to lose weight even though I was already quite small. I lived at college so the food options were limited. I pretty much went down the starvation route again and this is what I ate on a daily basis: muesli and yoghurt for breakfast, a ham and salad wrap or salad for lunch and dinner was usually pretty yuck so I would eat dessert instead – something like ice cream or cookies. Three smallish meals per day. I was always hungry. I also did a lot of walking to university and back to college (around 6-10kms per day).

My weight dropped to about 46kgs. I was skinny but I did not look healthy, especially in my upper body. During this period I think I did some damage to my metabolism and am paying for it now. Overall what I learned from this experience is that:

  • Being constantly hungry all the time is NOT fun!
  • Having bones sticking out of your shoulders does not look good.
  • Walking is really good for slimming legs.
  • And eating like this can result in long term damage.
Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 4.26.18 pm

3. Binge eating

I probably didn’t start binge eating until around my mid 20’s. The healthier I ate and the more I restricted myself from “junk” food, the worst my binge eating got. When I did eat something like chocolate, I wouldn’t eat just one or two pieces. It would be the whole block. And I wasn’t always like this. I have always loved chocolate but before this, I could have chocolate in my house and it would last weeks. If it was in the house now it would be gone in 1 day.

I still find this hard because I try to eat very healthy. But if I restrict myself too severely, that’s when I binge the most. So I’ve learned that there needs to be some healthy balance to keep you sane. If you love chocolate, don’t say I’m not eating it ever again or for the next month, etc. Just try to have it as a treat once or twice per week. If you’re REALLY craving it, eat it! But just don’t make a habit of it.

RELATED POST: HOW TO OVERCOME BINGE EATING

4. Binge drinking

From my late teens to early 20’s I was a heavy binge drinker. Every Friday and Saturday night (and sometimes other nights too) I would drink sooo much that I couldn’t remember anything and I would wake up so sick and feeling lost. It was pretty normal for me to spew 10-20 times the next day when I was hungover and sometimes for several days – not good.

I look back now and think – why the hell did I do that to my body?! Why did I ever think that was fun? I have asian genes so can’t tolerate alcohol at the best of times and I definitely pushed my body to the limit. I did not live a healthy lifestyle so didn’t realise how much it was impacting my health.

If I have a drink now, even just a few, I will feel sick for days. I will be bloated, constipated (gross I know) and I eat bad and don’t exercise because I feel so sick. This is why I no longer drink alcohol.

With the fitness and nutrition study I’ve done over the past year I have realised how bad alcohol is for your body! It severely dehydrates you and makes it harder for your body to function, it causes liver, kidney, stomach problems, you end up drinking LOTS of calories, you end up eating really bad usually both that night and the next day, and it makes you lazy the next day. It definitely does internal damage and can lead to weight gain or weight loss..

5. Being overweight

It was around this binge drinking time that I gained excess weight. I wouldn’t say I was overweight, but just larger than my normal size. It really hit me that I had gained weight when a guy at work told me that I’d put on weight! I was really unhappy at work, super stressed, ate chocolate every single day, and didn’t exercise.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 4.36.31 pm

This changed for me when I decided that I couldn’t live unhappy and stressed like that anymore. I quit my job, joined the gym (which forever changed my life) and tried to cut out the daily junk food. It took me a few months but I got back down to my normal weight, just by changing my unhappy situation.

What I learned from this is that stress is SO bad for not only your mental health but also contributes to weight gain. Yes, when you are stressed you may eat worse which contributes to weight gain. But being stressed means you have higher levels of the hormone cortisol which actually contributes to weight gain (especially around the abdominal area), affects your sleep and increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Through my recent studies I have come to realise how important this hormone is!

Now, I try to reduce my stress levels, but I am the type of person who gets stressed out very easily so this is something that I am constantly working on!

6. Avoiding Resistance Training

When I just started getting into fitness, I used to do only cardio. I liked doing cardio and I knew that is great for fat loss. But what I didn’t realize is the fact that if you do only cardio and avoid any type of resistance training, you’re probably going to end up looking skinny fat. And that’s exactly what happened to me! I looked quite slim but I had no muscle tone!

I’m a still HUUUGE advocate for cardio but I now know that you need to build at least some muscle if you want to look toned. I understand that some of you might still be tempted to avoid resistance training in fear of getting too muscular, but there’s a way to lift weights without getting bulky!

If you want more info, read this blog post on how to do get lean and toned without getting bulky.

Well I hope you have learned something from me. I know it was a long one so don’t blame you if you didn’t read it all! :) If you have any questions, just ask! xx

Tags: mistakes
Picture of Rachael

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

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9 comments on “Mistakes I’ve Made & What I’ve Learned”

    Sheryl says:

    So by circuits you mean going through different types of weight workouts at a fast pace right?

      Rachael Attard says:

      Hi Sheryl, yes a circuit can be fast paced or you can have some rest in between, it’s up to you! If you want to burn more calories and keep your heart rate up, keep the rest to a minimum x

    Sheryl says:

    Rachel

    You say pump class is not for muscle building? So I take a class that incorporates kettle balls and not that heavy if weights I think the heaviest is 15 pounds but it’s such high reps that 15 seems hard. Anyway am I wasting my time with this or should I be lifting heavy on the floor?

      Rachael Attard says:

      Do you know what, things have actually changed for me since I wrote that post! Lol. I think there are better ways to get lean and toned than pump class, but there is also nothing wrong with pump or kettle bell classes. Personally I would now prefer HIIT workouts and lighter circuits, plus cardio. I would do pump once and kettle bells once per week each and then try to do 1-2 HIIT circuits and 2-3 cardio sessions per week :) xx

    Caitlyn says:

    Hi Rachael,
    This is going to be a weird question but I’ve heard that once women start to get super fit and workout, they can lose a lot of their boobs since its fat. Did this happen to you and is there a way to prevent this? I have an average size but I don’t want to lose any:( Thank you so much!

      Andrew Brown says:

      Hi Caitlin,
      This is Rachael (have to login through my boyfriend’s account as having issues). Yes this is true. Your boobs are mostly made of fat so you will lose fat from here if you lose weight, there’s no way to prevent it. Yes my boobs go up and down in size as my weight fluctuates. Personally I’d rather have less body fat and small boobs :) xx

    Holly says:

    Great post! Most of the mistakes you made I have also made and I think most girls in their teens and early twenties unfortunately make. It’s nice when you get to your mid twenties and it feels like you finally have a good understanding of what works and also what’s realistic for your individual body. Holly xx

    Carri Welsby says:

    Hi Rachael,
    I’ve recently been unnecessarily and uncontrollably snacking on foods around the house like leftovers or nuts or dry cereal etc, particularly at night when I’m up late doing work.
    I’m freaking out about gaining weight or not being able to stop this bad habit, particularly as I have so much less free time to workout each day now that Uni has gone back and I’m working in between.
    I’m struggling to control this urge to eat everytime i walk in the kitchen or when no ones around. Please help!! How did you manage to reduce this mentality/similar habits?

    I do heavy resistance training and cardio as much as I can and eat a healthy diet as I genuinely enjoy doing so. But due to this unnecessary snacking (which has been on and off for the past several months), I too feel like I am not overweight, but a few kilos larger than my normal size.
    I know what I’m doing wrong, but I’m struggling to fight the mental side of it :/
    (I’m about 170cm and 56-58kg depending)

    Thanks, Carri

    Mimi says:

    Rachael this is such an incredibly personal and inspiring post. Sounds like we all have had similar struggles and you’re so brave to share them. Bravo miss! (And you’re looking Ahhh-mazing!) xx

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