Growing up in England, Bethany Robinson didn’t think much about her weight or body composition. She loved sports so much that she was always on a team, which involved a lot of year-round running and training, and food was more about improving performance and staying fueled for the next race or training session.
But when she went off to college, she stopped playing sports and focused on her studies – and suddenly, everything was very different.
“I started cooking for myself, and that’s when I started gaining weight,” she recalls.” I hated vegetables, so I avoided them and ate mostly cheesy pasta and garlic bread. I was also very frustrated and struggled with overeating. I didn’t know what the calories did. I didn’t know I was eating too much.”
When the weight started creeping up on her 5-foot-9-inch frame, Robinson reached about 250 pounds, and she decided to start making lifestyle changes – but losing weight wasn’t her main goal. Instead, she learned that a healthier diet would have a major impact on her mental health.
Despite her once ardent hatred of vegetables, she tried incorporating them into her meals and dieting in an attempt to reduce the depression brought on by overeating. She tried diets and eating philosophies such as keto, paleo, and intermittent fasting, but found that they didn’t work well because she still wasn’t paying enough attention to her calories.
To help her track the amount of calories in the foods she ate throughout the day, she started using MyFitnessPal and set a goal to gradually be in a calorie deficit. After she started seeing success with this method, she made sure she didn’t set too many limits for herself.
“I started eating whole foods 80 percent of the time and ‘sub-optimal’ foods like chocolate and donuts 20 percent of the time to keep my sanity and stop me from overeating,” she says.” It didn’t feel like I was dieting, and because of that, the results were much better than before.”
As she developed the habit of tracking and focusing, she began to recover from the cycle of hunger and overeating that was so detrimental to her mental health. In her first year of tracking, Robinson lost 83 pounds.
That’s when it was time for the next big step: going back to her exercise roots.
Robinson joined a CrossFit box near her home and set a goal to get stronger and healthier, not just to lose weight. She believes it made a huge difference.
“When I looked at my journey from a bodybuilding perspective, losing weight became an act of self-love,” she says.” It helped me reach my performance goals instead of trying to get thinner out of body hatred.”
She added that CrossFit also helped her build and maintain muscle, which led to faster weight loss. She then switched to tracking macros rather than calories in MyFitnessPal and finally felt that pride in her body that she had growing up – the ability to appreciate all that she could do, rather than just focusing on what she didn’t like.
She now weighs 174 pounds, and she’s happy that a lot of that is due to muscle strength. She has nearly 10,000 followers on Instagram and often has photos of her lifting weights, showing off her biceps and, most importantly, a big smile.
Robinson’s advice to others who are starting their journey is to start tracking and not change anything for the first few weeks – just to establish the habit of entering food. From there, she recommends gradually cutting calories and being careful about limiting too much, as this can be a source of self-sabotage.
Most importantly, she encourages people to look at healthy changes not as a way to punish themselves for yesterday’s poor eating and sedentary habits, but as a way to develop better mental health and love for themselves.