This post was originally written for and posted on the Geeked Out Fitness blog.
Recently, someone on Twitter asked me how I got into living healthy and making my fitness a priority. I started to respond and then I realized that my story was going to take up much more than 40 characters so I wrote something to the effect of “Long story but started to hit rock bottom and changed.”
Worst storyteller ever.
But that really got me thinking about my story and all of the stories on the Geeked Out Fitness team and I think that it’s important that we share our stories with you.
I’m not sure at what point in my life I learned that I needed to be skinny or how I learned it or where I learned it. I just remember knowing it. It was a thing that was fact. I needed to be skinny. The oldest memory about my physical self that I can remember involves softball. I played softball in fourth and fifth grade and I remember shopping for softball pants being one of the most mortifying experiences of my young life. I remember trying pants on and telling my mom that my thighs were fat and that I was fat. I don’t know if my mom remembers this adventure, I’ve never asked.
I look back on the pictures now and I can see that I wasn’t the same size as my very small framed best friend, but I wasn’t particularly fat either. My body image was distorted.
Throughout middle and high school I went through random bouts of not liking my body all that much – as I suppose young girls are unfortunately wont to do – and again now I look back on the pictures and think about how crazy I was. I was a tiny little stick person and I was convinced I was too fat. I had no real concept of exercising or eating healthy or anything. I didn’t know what a calorie was and I refused to run the mile in gym class.
When I got to college I met a boy who rode bicycles. I started riding bikes too and started to see my body differently for the first time in my life. I saw muscles in my lower half and I was proud of my curves. I was also eating ramen, chicken nuggets, and ice cream though so the change wasn’t overwhelming. After we broke up I continued to ride although not as much as before.
After my freshman year of college I left school and didn’t plan to go back. Then at the last minute I decided to go back anyway. Sometime during my tenure at school I got a job as a waitress at Hooters (I was hired for my personality). The tight uniforms only encouraged my self-judgment and I stopped eating as much and started working out. I was running and bought a ballet barre with an exercise DVD. A guy I had been with off and on during my entire time at school commented on the change in my body and I felt that it was a win. I was looking good!
Fast forward to the beginning of junior year. I dropped out of school – for good this time – and stayed in my apartment with my friend. I had a job as a waitress at a small restaurant and I spent a lot of time drinking. Sometimes I ran. Mostly I drank. And drank. And drank. The only time I remember being sober was between breakfast and driving to work.
Until one day two months after dropping out of school I called my mom asked her if I could move back home because I thought I was becoming an alcoholic. She said come on back but my parents were going to be out of town when I planned to come back so the only things I could bring back home with me were what I could fit in my 97 Pontiac Sunfire. It wasn’t a lot but that’s what I needed. It was the first step in letting go of a lot of physical and emotional baggage.
When I moved back home I started to search for a job and I didn’t have much to do in my free time so I started to work out. I started with Jilian Michaels DVDs and running and random weight lifting in the apartment gym. My mom joined me in working out sometimes, which I thought was fun. When she would join me I used to encourage her during our workouts. Helping her with her form and cheering her on. One workout she suggested I should become a personal trainer. Although I think she said actually said athletic trainer. I sort of took her advice and started looking into becoming a personal trainer (not a jock strap / athletic trainer).
Over the next six years my whole life changed. I started working in gyms. I completed my ACSM certification and later my NASM certification. I helped friends and family and strangers that became friends and family. I didn’t drink for a while after coming back home but eventually it snuck its way back into my diet. I learned how to work out and how to appreciate my body for what it could do and not what it looked like.
I still struggle with my eating habits. I eat weird and sometimes like a bird but also sometimes I eat 20 chicken wings. I’m not always perfect. I don’t always workout and I don’t always stop at 1 piece of pizza and I don’t only eat unprocessed food. I’m still a work in progress. I would like to look back five years from now and say that Husband and I have enough money to eat only unprocessed, organic foods and that we are eating and living healthier than ever before.
Five years. That’s a long time. I’m not pretending that things are going to change over night. It took me a long time to really respect my body and stop judging it so harshly and I know my diet isn’t going to change overnight either but it’s about 400 times better than where it was before.
I work out and I eat healthy because I want to live a long and happy life. I don’t want the 1800 ailments that run in my family line on both sides. I want better for myself and I deserve better for myself. Living healthy is so important to me and I try to be there for anyone that is trying to make the steps themselves because it’s not an easy task. But it is so worth it. My resting heart rate and my blood pressure are low (in a healthy way). My body fat percentage is healthy. I have trouble sleeping but that’s an anxiety thing and not a healthy lifestyle thing. I’m making these changes – these long-term lifestyle changes for me. Because I love me. And for the people that love me because I know they want me to stick around and bug them for as long as possible.
There are so many details and twists and turns in my story but I wanted you to understand at least from a big picture perspective where I come from. If you ever want to hear all of the sordid details I would be happy to share them with you over a cup of decaf tea sometime. In the meantime, I’ll just be here working on my own lifestyle change, helping people kick ass in the gym, and encouraging you to make the best of your own life too.