The fruit of Lara and Laura's detox labours: Cervezas at Neptunes
By Lara Ceroni and Laura DeCarufel
Yes, it’s true: I ate a cheeseburger. It happened within an hour of leaving The Ranch. Laura and I said our tearful goodbyes to our week-long companions and headed to Neptunes (a local biker bar right on the PCH). Our purpose wasn’t to flirt with surfers and take in the view (however glorious that sounds); we were there for work. Well, at least that’s how it started.
Enter the cheeseburger. For those of you that know me know I don’t do cheeseburgers. Unlike Laura, I am the classic girl who orders a salad at a restaurant (It drives my friends mad: “Are you seriously ordering a salad with grilled chicken again?!”) I’ve never had a Big Mac, have likely eaten cheesecake twice in my lifetime and as for the aforementioned burger (and, incidentally, a large bucket of fries), I’ve made it my life’s M.O. to steer clear.
But, here’s the thing: After spending a grueling week subsisting on rationed almonds and broth-based soups, my body craved indulgences I’ve never wanted before. I needed to eat bad food. Really, really bad food. This is so not like me and yet it feels incredibly refreshing to look at a menu and allow myself the treat of ordering something that isn’t listed as light and low-fat.
I embrace the ensuing food coma and think that tomorrow’s a new day. Mentally I’m already booking my session at the gym calculating how many miles I’ll have to clock on the treadmill to undue today’s damage. My guilt is almost palpable…until I see the M&Ms. I buy a pack and split them with the limo driver as we head to the airport.
5:30am: My eyes pop open expecting the bell chime welcoming me to morning yoga, but alas, it never comes. For a second I’m completely discombobulated. Where am I? I realize I’m back home, in Toronto, in the comforts of my own bed. The experience at the Ranch seems but a distant memory. Shut my eyes and proceed to sleep in until 9am.
9am: Wake up feeling refreshed and….panicked? I’ve wasted the entire morning! At this time last week I already would have been halfway through my hike. I jump out of bed as a woman on a mission. Time to hit the gym and see if there is any truth to the Ranch’s promise of a cleaner, fitter new me. As I throw on my gym clothes, I notice that they’re slightly looser. My twin tells me I look leaner, more toned. Nice.
30 minutes later… I’m still sitting on the couch drinking coffee. Again, like at Neptunes, I feel really out-of-self. I go to the gym every day (Willingly, I might add.) Why am I so unmotivated today? First the burger binge now skipping out on a workout? What is happening to me?? My bloated belly bleeps in protest.
Somehow the spin bike just doesn’t carry the same caché as the California mountains I climbed daily a couple weeks past. My workouts feel tedious, too easy, and not inspiring. I miss the hours-long training sessions where, by 7pm, I was so exhausted, my body so spent, that I could go to bed knowing I worked myself to my absolute maximum. If only I didn’t have a full-time job, I think. Wonder how the other ladies on the trip are faring now? As it stands, I’ve only managed to work out three times this week, as opposed to my regular six. Need. To. Focus.
Finally I feel like I’m back to my old routine. The gym has become familiar again and I’m going regularly. I still miss the mountain air, especially since we are in the throws of winter over here. Have I noticed any big change in my fitness levels? Not really; although I will give props to Pixie, our yoga instructor. As I’m doing push-ups, I move into a Downward Dog to stretch and am utterly amazed at my flexibility. This is new.
Incidentally, I weigh myself today and notice I’ve gained the majority of my weight back from what I lost at The Ranch. I suppose I could feel disappointed about it, but I’m not. The Ranch’s protocol of eating 1500 calories a day while burning close to 4500 in our work-outs was an unrealistic aim and one better suited for “Biggest Loser” contestants than regular people trying to live healthier lives. It makes me think of Laura, and the other women that were on the trip. I hope they’ve managed to incorporate some of The Ranch’s philosophies into their daily lives and not be too swayed by the number on the scale.
WEEK FIVE AND BEYOND:
I meet some friends for dinner and order, you guessed it, a salad. It made me realize that, although my time at The Ranch was a wonderful one and something I’ll remember forever (remember Laura’s two right hiking boots?), it was an experience, not a game-changer. And, however strange that sounds, I’m really happy with that realization. It’s ok to recognize your strengths and be proud of the person you’re working to be. Do I love working out everyday when I could be at home watching The Young and the Restless (Yes, I still watch the show. Don’t judge.) Not always. Am I really that much in love with kale? Nope. But I work hard to live a healthy life, to fuel my body with clean and nutritious foods and train so I feel –not just look – fit. The Ranch gave me the platform to finally acknowledge that. I feel a peace I’ve never felt before.
But, then again, tomorrow is a new day and another opportunity to run a faster mile. Will I do it? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it doesn’t matter. For once.
Laura's illustrious fish tacos
After five days of starting emails with “Dude. Help”, I was surprised at how emotional I felt about leaving The Ranch. Just before heading out, our group took a final stroll together. We looked out over the trees and rocky outcroppings reaching down to the ocean, the realization slowly dawning that our crazy fitness adventure—four-hour hikes, kale shakes, cannibalistic urges—was over. We’d done it! Now it was time to go back to the real world and attempt to bring any good habits or remembered willpower with us.
I lasted about an hour. But, guys, in that hour I was smug health personified. On our way to the airport, Lara and I stopped to do a quick interview at Neptune’s, a Malibu restaurant right on the Pacific Coast Highway. Lara ordered a coffee, and even though I’d greedily gulped down her contraband Starbucks all week, I decided to prove how freaking fit I was by ordering tea with skim milk. We sat at a picnic table, overwhelmed by sunshine, surfers, and free will. Then the grill started up. My pupils dilated like Homer Simpson’s after licking the magic frog. Fish tacos it was. And a beer! Jesus wept. I burped. An hour later, Lara and I split a cheeseburger.
But that, I told myself, arriving home with Snickers wrappers in my suitcase and honey roasted peanut salt under my fingernails, was it: A necessary splurge after five days of discipline. The next day was going to be a whole different story.
And you know what? It was. It helped that I’d lost pounds and inches while at The Ranch—I felt like I’d gotten a head start and I didn’t want to let it get away. Even after a day of mad excess, I just felt better: lighter, sure, but also calmer, energized, focused. In fact, I felt exactly like the irritating people I’d read about, who extol the virtues of being healthy and fit. Or even just thin—I remembered Kate Moss’s infamous maxim “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” When I first heard that, I wanted to pull her hair. Now I could almost believe it. I bought Shape, and turned down wine with dinner. The discipline made me feel good, even powerful. Oh, and smug. Definitely smug.
Clearly, the biggest challenge was going to be incorporating stringent Ranch principles into my daily life. There are no mountains to climb in downtown Toronto, and no super chef to create ultra healthy, surprisingly delicious meals three times a day. I turned to Lara for help. “So, what do you eat for breakfast?” I asked her, scribbling away. “And lunch?” “And dinner?” Armed with a grocery list and a sense of purpose, I headed to Fiesta Farms. I filled my cart with almond butter, rice cakes, and organic blueberries—and then I actually ate them. My efforts didn’t go unnoticed. “Are you supporting the entire mini carrot industry?” my boyfriend asked, peering into the fridge at my new favourite snack. “I’m not sure we can be friends anymore,” my friend Jenn said after seeing my box of Kashi cereal. I deserved it—I’d always been such a snob about healthy food. But slowly, shockingly, I was starting to love it.
Thanks to the kind people at North Face, who helped outfit Lara and I for our Ranch experience, I had an amazing new fitness wardrobe: workout pants, tops, hoodies, and best of all, fleece pants, possibly the world’s greatest invention. (It’s completely true that having stylish gym clothes is a major fitness motivator.) To reach maximum motivation, I decided to create a serious workout mix. Every morning I headed out for a run, powered up by the musical stylings of Onyx, Mos Def….and Mariah Carey. (What? She’s good.) When it was too cold or icy to run outside, I went to the Y. I felt more at home there than I had before—less like a visitor, maybe, keeping one eye on “calories burned” and another on the clock. I created a routine, tried out new machines, and glanced around, eyes narrowed like Jillian Michaels, every time I added five pounds onto the Fly weight.
It wasn’t all skipping through a wheatgrass meadow, though. Even though I realized how much better I felt after eating carrots instead of cookies, I still loved cookies. And cheese, and champagne. And I could never bring myself to order a mixed green and strawberry salad in a restaurant when steak frites was also on the menu. That last realization helped me to identify some of my food patterns—that I often treat eating, especially eating out, like an experience. I always want it to be wonderful. The idea of asking a server to put half my meal in a takeout container before it’s served (a Ranch suggestion) is anathema to me, even though, calorie-wise, it makes perfect sense.
Ultimately, the most important (and empowering) lesson I took from The Ranch is that I’m capable of so much more than I ever would have thought. What’s 40 minutes on a treadmill compared to a four-hour hike? I can push harder, go further. The power is mine, I just have to learn how to wield it.
Well, and then Christmas happened and I dove back to my bad habits, like Scrooge to his bed in A Christmas Carol. I baked Christmas cookies, opted for the double cream brie, and experimented with all manner of spiked egg nog (brandy won). The only constant from my month of fitness awesomeness were my fleece pants.
After the madness, though, the cotton candy clouds are parting! I’m ready to go back to the Y and the organic produce aisle—back to health and fitness. I can do it. I think. Right?
Want to know what gear Lara and Laura wore? Click hereRead more:
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