Heather Conkin


Alex Maclin + What I've learned about Body Image, Weight, and Food | Boulder Brand Photographer

I experienced a couple of firsts with this photo shoot. First time shooting a male solo entrepreneur. First time shooting in a grocery store. There’s a first time for everything! This was a special shoot for me because of those things, but also because Alex Maclin is my friend and my coach. He coached me back in my weightlifting days, and now he is my nutrition coach. Today I’m sharing some of my favorite images from our 3 location session, but I also wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned about myself and food since working with Alex.

First, a little about my story as it relates to food, body image, and weight. As I’ve shared before on my podcast, I was one of those lucky girls who had a mom who was never on a diet and never cared much about her weight. I didn’t think too much about my weight or body (other than I wished I was tan…oh the life of being a redhead) until after I had kids. As my stress, activity levels, and priorities changed, so did my body. It was then that I started trying every diet and exercise plan designed to target new mothers. I discovered Crossfit which boosted my confidence….but also my appetite! I ate all the food, pushed myself in the gym is ways I didn’t know I was capable, and was part of a tight knit community that I was desperately seeking. As my body tired and my priorities shifted again, as priorities do, we moved across country and my time spent doing Crossfit dwindled, and I was left with a heavier body that didn’t feel like my own.

After trying, and failing, at many diets, it was only until I got to a happy place with my body that I was able to make some changes and lose some weight. For me, restricting from a place of love rather than angst and self loathing is the only things that has worked. I dropped a chunk of weight between 2017 - 2018 and then gained a little of it back by 2019. It was then that I reached out to Alex Maclin to help me get back down to my ideal weight, but, more importantly to get there enjoyably and sustainably. I’m still working towards my goals, and am always a work in progress. However, since working with Alex, my mindset towards food, habits, and body image have shifted in ways that make me feel mentally lighter and happier. Here are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since working with Alex:

I’m an abstainer

I’m a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin, and ages ago she had an article about abstainer vs. moderators. Some people do well knowing they can have just a little bit and some people are better off just cutting things out. For example: I’ve recently realized that I have a hard time eating the recommended serving size of chips. 9 chips? Are you kidding me? I’m better off never having them in the house, and that way I never spend any time thinking about them. However, when there’s always a bag sitting there, I spend waaaay too much mental energy resisting them and thinking about them. I’d rather just abstain. But for some people, that would be torture and are better off just having a few. Even though I don’t really do treat meals or cheat meals any more because I give myself permission to eat anything, I find that some food are either triggering for me or are not in line with my goals, so I just keep them out of sight out of mind.

It’s ok to eat all the food

Alex shocked me when he told me that an average 8 year old girl needs about 1400 calories a day to maintain her body composition. Do you know how may women I know who are trying to survive on that many calories a day or less? It’s a lot. Also, I realized that I could not remember a time where I was consistently fueling myself at maintenance. It was all feast or famine. I’d eat 1200 calories during the week and then crush 4000 calories a day or two on the weekend, half of which was junk food. Alex got me thinking….what would life be like if it was a little more sane and even. It took some doing and I think he tricked me into it, but although I thought I wanted to diet right off the bat, instead we worked me up to maintenance. Did I gain weight. Yep. And I’m not going to lie - that was a bit of a mind game, but it felt incredible to be eating enough food consistently and guess what? When that happened I was no longer dreaming of Friday night pizza. Seriously. Now I am in a much better place to diet again and bonus - I won’t have to starve myself to do it.

Diet 1-2 times a year max for no more than 4-12 weeks at a time

Since working with Alex, he has taught me that the body was not meant to be in a constant caloric deficit. In fact, that will work against you in the long run. Eventually you will run out of calories to cut. Really understanding this gets it through my thick skull that long lasting body composition changes take time, effort, and carefully planning.

Doing things out of love vs. self hatred is a game changer

I alluded to this earlier, but I want to break it down here even further. When I’ve dieted because I hated the way I looked, there was just too much angst and white knuckling in that game for me to sustain anything long term. I know others who ARE able to sustain it from that perspective, but what kind of life is that? Not one I want to live. The bottom line is that if you want to lose body fat you DO have to eat in a caloric deficit whether you’re gluten free, keto, flexible dieting…whatever. But restricting from a place of love and because you WANT to and because you are living in alignment with your values is a completely different thing. For me, it feels freer and easier because it’s WHO I AM rather than something I want or want to be. If this sounds intriguing to you, but you have no idea how to get there, check out this podcast episode.

It’s an identity change

At one point, I thought I would scream if I heard “it’s not a diet it’s lifestyle” one more time. But it’s true. To change long term, I’ve had completely change the way I think. I’ve learned to embody who I want to be RIGHT NOW rather than go hard for 30 days thinking “I’ll be happy when.” This clicked for me a couple of years ago, but for me this has been really hard to explain. I recently read Atomic Habits by James Clear, and he gives the most practical explanation I’ve ever heard in terms of identity and habits. Check out that chapter in particular for more.

There you have it! If you are on the struggle bus with food, weight, or body image, I see you! So many of us have been there, but only YOU have the power to change your story. There’s a lot of junk and noise out there in the diet and fitness industry, but Alex is the real deal.


Health, PhotographyHeather