I want to start a series on this blog called “Let’s Talk” where I discuss a topic, most of which will be fitness, nutrition and mental health based, and I would love it if you guys comment so we can have a discussion about it.
For the first post of this series, I would like to talk about my “fitness journey”, as this has been a big part of my life for the past few years. It all started when I was a senior in high school, we had a big trip planned to Jamaica for spring break, and this meant I had to be in a bikini in front of all of my friends for an entire week; a scary thought for all self-conscious young women like me.
*the photo at the top of this post is a transformation from April 2014 –> March 2017. +23ish (happy and healthy) pounds from left pic to right.*
I never really thought about what I was eating, and never exercised outside of my dance classes. I got a gym membership my junior year and went to the gym about twice a month. My diet consisted of quick foods like mac and cheese, sandwiches, cereal, Pop Tarts, and all those delicious Hostess snacks. Looking back on it, I was still pretty thin despite all the crap I was putting into my body. I’ll never forget the photo I was in that made me reconsider my diet and exercising. It was a bikini picture with all of my friends at the start of summer 2013 going into our senior year. My jaw literally dropped when I saw what I looked like… Chubby, I thought to myself (dramatic af) and it was all the motivation I needed to go to the gym more often, and that particular photo became the “before photo” for my transformation pictures.
Months went by and I felt better about myself and was actually loving the gym. I started being more mindful about what I was eating and went to the gym about four times a week. That summer, I managed to lose around 8-10 pounds quite easily. You know what they say, results drive motivation, so I kept at it. Spring break was in mid April, so I started my new diet and exercise habits in December, right after my birthday. Bear in mind that I was a competitive dancer at this point going to class for six hours three to four days a week. On top of my dancing, I was in the gym every. single. day. Literally, no days off.
I started out by doing a little cardio and random weight machines. Once I started seeing more and more weight come off I would do even more cardio. On top of all the cardio (1.5 hours each day, half hour of my pathetic excuse for weight lifting), my diet consisted solely of fruits and vegetables. I was counting my calories using MyFitnessPal, trying to eat less and less each day, at my lowest getting down to around 350-500 calories a day. By the time Jamaica rolled around, I had lost 16 pounds from my starting point that summer of 2013. At 5’6″ and 124 pounds, there wasn’t much to me. I started out having a good size butt, nice legs, and I just looked healthy and proportionate. After losing all the weight, I honestly just looked sick and frail. Even still, I looked in the mirror and thought I needed to lose more weight.
I told myself that after spring break in Jamaica I would start eating normally again. That didn’t happen. There were a few moments of realization during this year-long period of borderline anorexia that made me think about how unhealthy I was being. My boyfriend’s mom said, “your arm is so thin I could break it in half”, my dance teacher asked me how often I was eating, if at all, and my friends told me I lost my butt and legs.
I specifically remember the day that I had gone 27 hours without eating and I felt proud that I was able to last so long without food. (I actually have tears in my eyes writing that sentence, I will never forget that moment)
I weighed myself each and every morning to check on my progress. I would always either lose weight or stay the exact same as the previous day. One morning, I gained half a pound. HALF. I was so disappointed in myself I couldn’t help but cry (talk about drama) and my mom of course, knew what happened. She screamed at me calling me anorexic, I was in denial. She called my therapist for an immediate session who told me that I definitely had a problem.
Another concern arose when I went to my annual OB GYN appointment and told them I hadn’t gotten my period in 8 months. They asked me why I lost all this weight, and told me if I didn’t change my habits I was going to get osteoporosis and have other problems that I can’t remember now. In turn, the doctor told me to gain at least 10 pounds. I said absolutely not, and I didn’t do it. I refused to let all my hard work go to waste. Who needs a period anyways? Life was great without it. (FYI: YOU NEED TO GET YOUR PERIOD… sorry men, if you’re reading this)
I’ll skip the rest of the terrible things I went through during this time, but looking back now, I wish I would have listened to what everyone was saying to me. I was taking these remarks of being skinny as compliments when in reality, they were all telling me that I looked sick and unhealthy, because I was. I didn’t care, I put fitness and food before my social life, and that’s a regret I will always have.
Everything changed for me when I went to college and saw the college athletes in the gym lifting heavy weights, with huge muscles, never killing themselves with cardio, and then going to the dining hall after and eating delicious food. I wanted that too.
So I made it happen. I followed fitness YouTubers and Instagrammers. I sat in my dorm room and learned everything I possibly could about fitness and nutrition. I hired a personal trainer for two months that gave me a new exercise regimen, consisting of lots of weights and only two cardio sessions a week. I looked forward to going to the gym, and to giving myself one day off a week. I followed a strict meal plan eating the exact same thing every day. I absolutely loved it.
My body changed, and I gained weight. It took me a long time, but I accepted it. From all of my research I knew that if I wanted to be strong, (and I really did) I had to gain weight, eat more, and do less cardio. I felt better about myself, people told me I looked great, and the best of all they told me I looked healthy! I got my period back and have no more health issues. Over time, I ditched the meal plan, tried a bunch of different styles of eating and exercising, and finally found balance in my life. I gained about 25 pounds since my lowest weight in 2014, and I am so happy that I did.
It’s a long and hard road, this fitness journey of mine, and it is nowhere near over. I have balance between food, the gym, and a social life. My happiness comes before the scale. Just so you know, I don’t even weigh myself anymore. I go based off how I look and feel. If I feel like doing cardio that day I will, but if I don’t, I wont. If I want a slice of cake for dessert, I’ll have it, and I’ll probably have a big salad for one of my meals the next day. Those extra 5-10 pounds you have that you think you want to lose, that’s your freedom. That’s your best friends birthday cake, your country concert tailgate beers, your extra butter on your popcorn at the movie theater. Don’t stress about that extra weight, and don’t let it control your life like I did. Don’t be like I was. I was unhealthy and looking back, I am happy that I learned from it and can be a trusted resource on what not to do when you’re trying to lose weight.
Comment below if you’ve ever struggled with body image issues, and how you overcame them. We’d all love to hear some advice!