I had this post written for over a week now. I've just been hesitant to post it. But I feel like those who read my blog need to know where I'm coming from. I am on a journey to create good habits, but it is hard. I mess up! So far I am doing better at keeping up with my new habits rather than reverting back to my old ones. That's all one can ask for, right? Continue to be better each day.
Warning, shit is gonna get “real” in this post!
Since fitness is a big part of my life, it's probably going to be a big part of this blog. I'm not a trainer or a nutritionist, nor do I hold any sort of degree or certification in those areas. Heck, I didn't even start running or exercising until I was halfway through college. But I do think I learned a lot over the years. I have experience doing a lot of things wrong AND a lot of things right.
Over the past year in particular, I have made huge changes in my eating habits, exercise habits, and my attitude as to what it means to be healthy and strong. This has caused me to look back at my old habits and feelings with a fresh eye... like the unhealthy ways I tried to lose or maintain weight, how I used exercise to make up for poor eating habits, and how I worried about food every second of every day.
It sounds very free spirited to call what I'm on a “journey”, but that’s really what it is! It’s not a diet and it’s not a quick fix. It’s a lifestyle I have chosen that works for me. It keeps me sane.
I’m not sure where my journey’s destination is. I've changed my mind and reevaluated my priorities so many times. I have to- I'm not the same person I was 10 years ago let alone 3 years ago. I hope I can continue to be curious, continue to push myself out of my comfort zone, and never resort back to my old, unhealthy habits.
Of course there will be bumps. I will binge. I will go for a 20 mile run to make up for some bad eating. I'll cut my calories. No one is perfect, and it's easy to revert back to old habits. But hopefully these set backs will just be bumps, and I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and make myself do the right thing. Because I feel SO GOOD now, and I never want to feel the way I used to ever again.
Let's start at the beginning...
Growing up I wasn’t an athlete but I wasn’t a couch potato either. I ran around and played outside all the time, I danced in musicals, and I was on swim team (not competitively) during the summer. But I wasn’t an athlete. I quit softball after two practices and track after five. I was the one lobbying to be the goalie in gym class so I wouldn’t get sweaty.
All through my high school years and even the first few years of college I was very thin and could eat pretty much whatever I wanted. And boy did I have a hearty appetite! I was the girl who ate her entire lunch and then all the food her friends didn’t eat. Looking back, I realize the best part about all of this was that I didn’t even think about food. If I was hungry, I ate. If I was not hungry, I did not eat.
I can’t remember exactly when that changed but it was at some point in college. I started running and working out on the elliptical and I started to be mindful of the food I ate. I still ate, but I was definitely more aware of what and how much I was eating. It was during this time that I started to develop the notion of feeling “fat”. Not all the time, but like after a big meal, or after I ate something junky. I knew I wasn’t actually fat, I just felt that way. (Unfortunately, I think a lot of women know the feeling I am talking about.)
Things sort of came to a head in December 2004. I had just graduated from IUP and moved into an apartment Elizabethville with a friend. The plan was to start substitute teaching and hopefully get a job the next school year. I remember the night before my first subbing job I weighed myself on my roommate’s scale. I was 126lbs! I was in shock. I never weighed that much! I freaked out and decided I had to lose weight.
|Correction: My mom has informed me I was 8lbs 6oz when I was born!|
Through the use of exercise and unhealthy eating habits, I managed to get down to 111lbs in 3 months. 109lbs on a good day. I would do an hour of exercise a day (running, Tae bo, or elliptical) and limit my food intake to 800 calories. All I ate was oatmeal, broccoli, apples, popcorn, and fat free grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh, and spray butter. LOTS of spray butter! After I reached my goal weight I switched out the oatmeal for Cheerios. (Are you wondering how I remember all this? Because that's what I ate every. damn. day.) I was pretty proud of the way I looked. My clothes not only fit me again but they were loose. I felt attractive. And I loved holing myself up in my bedroom and eating popcorn and grilled cheese all night! (Can you say “food ritual”!?)
Obviously living off so few calories was not going to last very long. My body was starving for food and at some point the food was going to have to win over- no matter how badly I wanted to be skinny. It was during a beach trip to Ocean City Maryland in August 2005 that I caved. A bag of caramel popcorn turned into funnel cake, funnel cake turned into ice cream, and then suddenly I just couldn’t stop eating. I was starving! My body needed to be nourished, and nourish it I did! I gained most of the weight back in a few weeks. I only got up to 123lbs but I looked so bloated. It was not good weight. It was the result of binging on ice cream, honey buns, milk, and donuts.
My weight ended up naturally evening out after a few months. My body got used to eating food again, and I started to eat a little more normally- no more honey bun binging. My weight evened out to where I think it is happiest (115-120lbs) and I didn't look bloated. I took up marathon running and that helped keep me sane and give me a purpose for exercise and nutrition. I wasn’t happy, though. I constantly thought about food and what I looked liked.
Time went by. I got married. I bought a house. I earned my Master's degree. I ran the Boston Marathon and a 50 mile race. Yet I was never happy with myself and ALWAYS obsessed about food. I remember telling my husband a few years ago that if I had one wish in the world, it would be to not care about food or think about food. Food CONSUMED my thoughts. I guess I didn’t have any other problems (I really didn’t) so I had to create a huge problem for myself spelled F-O-O-D.
While distance running has really helped me, I think it also led to some not so healthy exercise habits. I started to over exercise to compensate for the food I ate. During the summer of 2009 I was in the habit of running 12 miles a day- an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Just two years ago I decided that if I did 2 hours of cardio a day I would get my dream body. (Never mind the fact I was eating huge portions of ice cream and cookies every night.)
!!!!! Spoiler Alert: 2 hours of Cardio per day did NOT give me my dream body. Nor did it make me happy. It made me tired and hungry. !!!!!
So there I was. A relatively thin girl. Happily married, well educated, with a fulfilling job. Running marathons. Running ultra marathons. Doing two hours of exercise a DAY and I still wasn't happy with how I felt or what I looked like. I was tired. All I thought about was exercise and food, and how if I didn't exercise, I would get fatter and blah blah blah blah blah you get the picture.
I felt guilty. Why did I care so much about how I looked? Is that what measures my worth? Yet it was more than how I looked, it was also how I felt. I was not comfortable in my own skin. I was afraid to be hungry. I wouldn't go anywhere if I felt "full". Food and exercise dictated my life, and not in a good way.
I was in a sad state of affairs.
Then, I went on a trail run with my friend JK-L and she changed my life.
Part II of My Fitness Journey is coming soon!