From an early age I led a very active lifestyle and dabbled in all sorts of sports, including dance, gymnastics, cheerleading, softball, soccer, volleyball, and track. But what I loved the most were water sports. I could float in a pool (supervised, of course) before I learned to walk, and by age four I was a member of a local swim team. By junior high and high school years, I was competing at regional and state levels in both water polo and swimming. I loved swimming, and hours of daily practice kept me in great shape. Of course, those hours of daily practice also meant that I had to eat large quantities of food to keep my body properly fueled. I could eat whatever I wanted and whenever I wanted. the calories would be burned off the next day during practice. It was GREAT… until I left for college and opted to stop swimming competitively.
The chain reaction was almost immediate. I had changed my activity levels, but not my eating patterns. I indulged in typical college life: beer, late night pizza, and non-nutritious snack food. It didn’t take long before I exceeded the notorious “freshman fifteen.”
I became very self-conscious and depressed. I stopped doing things that I previously enjoyed because I was embarrassed of the way I looked. This set a more dangerous pattern in motion. I began to take comfort in food and when I would get really upset with myself I found myself binge eating. It was a downward spiral. I will never forget the day I went to visit my grandparents during my freshman year of college and my grandpa looked at me and said “looks like you’ve been spending more time in the cafeteria than the library”. I will NEVER forget this and even though it seems harsh it was a HUGE wake up call for me. I had to find a healthy balance of college and being healthy. I wanted to be fit again and I wanted my life back. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life depressed and uncomfortable.
Yes, it was a struggle at first. I struggled with diets that didn’t work. I struggled to find the “one” magical exercise to take off pounds, only to find that such magic didn’t exist. But slowly, I started to concentrate less on the “struggles”, and more on the joy of activity and good nutrition.
I’ve been out of college for 6 years now, and I find that I’m in the best shape of my life. I know I’ll never weigh the amount I did in high school and I’m ok with that. What matters is I feel good and am happy with what look like and feel like today. A big factor in achieving my fitness goals was starting to eat “clean” and always changing up my workout routines. Just like when I was young, I do lots of different activities. I have found running, barre, TRX, and yoga sculpt to be a few of my favorites that help me stay fit and keep my body toned. Along with these great workouts, eating clean has really changed a lot for me. I use to think that if I worked out for an hour I could eat whatever I wanted for the day. It wasn’t until I started to eat “clean” / cut out processed foods from my diet that I started to notice significant changes happening to my body and mood. What made me decide I needed to change my eating habits was when I realized how many hours I was spending at the gym and how hard I was working out but there were no changes or progress being made when I looked in the mirror. I have learned it’s a balance of working out and eating clean. I feel more energized and sleep great! It was not easy at first, but I slowly started changing what I ate. Don’t get me wrong; I still indulge in junk food once in while, but I notice almost immediately after eating these types of foods how terrible and bloated I feel. I actually crave vegetables now, which I never thought to be possible. Nutritious eating is now a lifestyle for me. It’s not a diet and it’s not a fad –it’s how I choose to nourish my body every day.
It has taken me many years to figure out what works best for me in my life to live a healthy and active life without starving myself or buying into diets. I feel great and my advice to anyone is don’t make excuses for yourself. Don’t say you will “start tomorrow” or let food become a comfort. Live your life; do what makes you happy. I always meet great people at the gym or in my fitness classes. I surround myself with people who support me and inspire me. Some days are more challenging than others, but I’ve learned to reframe the “struggle” into a satisfaction of just being healthy. It is not about a number on the scale, or the size of your clothes. It’s been a long road of self-discovery for me, but I know that many people still struggle like I once did. Its *never* to late to start living a healthier lifestyle. Believe in yourself and persevere — you CAN overcome any struggle in life.
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