“I like weights. You know where you stand with them. Well, sometimes you’re lying under them, trying not to let them crush you, but you see, you know they’d crush you if they could. There’s honesty.” – One of my all-time favorite quotes about fitness (truly, nothing is more honest than weight lifting!) from my Shape.com slideshow The Smartest Things Ever Said About Fitness.

One of the best things about my job, even better than getting to interview celebs like Allison Sweeney and Tony Horton, is getting to talk to all kinds of people and see how fitness has changed their lives. Sure weight loss comes up a lot – usually in the context of “What’s the fastest way to lose weight?”

I like Oprah’s reply: “There is no easy solution. If there was I would have bought it and it would be one of my favorite things.” – but the most common benefits people see from exercise have to do more with how they feel than how they look.

Recently I asked people on my Facebook what their fave fitness perk is. Confidence, a brighter mood, fewer meds and even a better sex life were just a few of the amazing stories shared.

Take, for example, my friend Lindsey who wrote, “When I was a sophomore in college, I was diagnosed with stomach problems. Then I joined the YMCA, and thanks to my increased activity, weight loss, and stress reduction, I don’t need to take the medication anymore! Not to mention that it gave me a great group of girlfriends!” And I can vouch for how great those girlfriends are since one of them’s me;)

To check out the rest of the stories, see my post for Shape “How Has Being Active Changed Your Life?”

But one of the most interesting parts of the Facebook discussion were the few brave friends who dared to also point out an interesting negative consequence of getting fit.

Michelle G. wrote, “The thinner I got, ironically the more self-conscious I became because I fit into the ‘normal’ people world. When I was fat I could hide away. I also feel internal pressure to [always] be training for something. But I’m learning how to be my own person. And just because I’m not doing a race or training for a tri doesn’t mean I’m not active! Plus, I love that my pulse is super low and I can see muscles in my arms!”

Quish T., who recently lost a ton of weight, agreed, adding, “I will also tell you something bad. I am acutely, ACUTELY aware of everything I put in my mouth. I am obsessive about it. In my mind I calculate how many calories this was, how long I will have to work out to burn off that. I used to think as a bigger person I was “ok” with it. But now as someone who can shop at a “normal” store I find I am actually more critical of myself. I feel like people who knew me when I was bigger are watching me. To see what I eat, if I gain weight, if I work out. It’s crazy … almost worse.”

Honestly it had never occurred to me how much pressure people who lose a lot of weight must feel and how that might affect them when it comes to life-long habits and how they view exercise. I mean we all know that I’ve been crazy and obsessive about my food and exercise (doing light years better now — holla!) but I never thought about how losing weight could make a formerly overweight person, well, disordered. Although now that I type that I want to #facepalm. Heck, people from The Biggest Loser have been talking for years about how it gave them an eating disorder but they’re doing things that are obviously insane, right? Does it really have the same effect for normal people doing the whole “making healthy changes” thing?

Indeed, it can. Tara Parker-Pope wrote an absolutely illuminating article on this very subject for The New York Times called “The Fat Trap.” It’s lengthy but worth the read as she details her own roller coaster weight struggle, the research that explains why a calorie is not “just a calorie,” and the realities of what people do to maintain their weight loss and the toll it takes on them. One woman even weighed her poop so she could get the most accurate measurement of her RMR (resting metabolic rate) so that she wouldn’t go over her calorie allotment.

So now I’m dying to hear your stories! How has being active changed your life for the better? And have you seen any negatives to it? Those of you who have lost a lot of weight, can you relate to Michelle, Quish and Tara’s (look at me all on a first-name basis with her!) struggles??

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  1. I want to have sex all the time. A negative is I can’t sit still for long period of times.

  2. I recently loss 100 pounds in 10 months. It changed my life! I feel strong like I can accomplish anything. I have more energy and I even stopped eating meat. I care about what I put in my body now..it is my temple. and my curves are insane

  3. Anya, if you don’t mind me asking, how did you lose the weight? A few years back I lost about 80 pounds and it felt great. Unfortunately, I have gained most back and yes, you do feel like people are watching and waiting but thankfully those who really matter are quite supportive if helping me get back to where I need to be.

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