Getting off the couch was never an issue for me. I was super-active growing up in Paris, and participated in competitive gymnastics all my life.
But when I started college, I had to give up gymnastics to focus on my studies. That’s when I quickly learned you can’t eat the same way when you’re training eight hours per week as you can if you’re doing almost no physical activity. Long story short: I gained roughly 20 pounds and just felt horrible in my own skin. So after the stress of getting into university was behind me, I decided it was time to “get in shape” (an expression I now hate, but more on that later).
I turned to the platform where I was already getting ample inspiration: Instagram. Seeing all the body transformations people posted got me so excited and motivated, and though I was a little skeptical, I committed to a home-workout program focusing on high-intensity interval training (HIIT) from one of the queens in this domain.
My sister and I embarked on it together, promising to lose those extra love handles. The first workout was so, so hard and my sister almost puked. But I fell in love with it. Call me crazy, but I loved pushing my limits. Soon, I became die-hard. I would never miss a single workout, even if I was tired, on vacation, or with friends.
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I realized in order to get results, though, I would need to start thinking about what I ate. I became hyper-focused on eating clean, and soon was obsessing over everything I ate. If it wasn’t a “clean” food, there was no way I was going to eat it. Eating a piece of chocolate cake would mean all my perfect eating every other day that week was worthless.
Over time, I started to see all those benefits people rave about beyond weight loss, like feeling clearer and cleaner. I also started losing weight, and way more than I expected. I lost 27 pounds in four months, going from 128 lbs to 101 lbs. And while some might think “Great! She nailed her diet,” keep in mind I’m only 5’5” and the truth was, I was getting into a very unhealthy place. I felt like if I wasn’t 110 percent committed, all my efforts would be vain. I became obsessed. In retrospect, I had became orthorexic, the condition of becoming unhealthily obsessed with a healthy diet.
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I was fixated on this path, focusing mostly on HIIT workouts, until Instagram started showing me a different kind of inspiration: More and more girls I follow were getting into weightlifting. It is crazy how the strangers you decide to follow on social media have such an impact on your life. Suddenly, the “Strong is the new skinny” mantra that women were spreading started to really speak to me. Shifting the goal from having a thigh gap to being able to challenge your body in new ways just made so much more sense. I also began to realize that my strategy for eating “clean” was just actually putting my body and mind in a dangerous place.
So I decided to get a gym membership and see what this weightlifting was all about. Then I started researching the best weight training regimen for my body. I scoured YouTube videos, listened to podcasts, even researched hypertrophy and the mechanisms behind developing muscle. Knowledge is very powerful, and even though I was by no means an expert at the time, it helped me gained the confidence to enter the weight room.
And this is where my fitness journey truly began. That said, I didn’t go from Cardio Fit Bunny to Girl Who Lifts in a week. I eased in by alternating between my HIIT and cardio-focused program a few days a week and weightlifting the others. After a few weeks, loving the way I felt lifting heavier, I gave my up the fat-burn routines and switched to weightlifting exclusively.
I grew up in France, and there especially, you don’t see women weightlifting. I used to fear looking “manly,” but once I started lifting heavy, I not only realized how untrue that was, but also how much I didn’t care even if it were. Most of all, I was surprised by how incredibly empowered I felt. My entire philosophy changed.
Once I stopped training for a specific body, I started training for mine. I stopped competing with others; I started competing with myself. I stopped restricting and started nourishing my body. And what is most astonishing, is that this new lifestyle got me exactly where I wanted to be originally.
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As for food, I’m a huge foodie. I can’t eat the same thing every day, but some staples I always come back to include: avocado toast with poached egg and smoked salmon; chickpeas pastas with parmesan; and crispy tempeh and sweet potatoes. And I have one huge non-negotiable indulgence: Once a week, I disconnect and watch a totally goofy movie, while eating a big bowl of oats, peanut butter, and granola. (Where are my Mean Girls lovers at?)
I started my at-home cardio workouts at 128 pounds and, after two rounds of the three-month program, I was down to 95 pounds. Now, after almost a year of lifting, I weigh 120 pounds (that’s muscle and fat!) and I’ve never felt better in my own skin.
LOUISE’S NUMBER ONE TIP
When we obsess solely on our physique, we end up miserable and we never get the body we want because that perfect body doesn’t exist. When you focus on wellbeing, though, you become proud of how far your body has come and happy with how great you feel. Focusing on what you can accomplish rather than what you look like is how you become the best version of yourself.
Follow Louise’s fitness journey on Instagram.