My current physique, mindset around health, and reasons for fitness, are not what they once were. My journey has taken lots of little turns that got me to where I am today. While I still have my own struggles, I'm proud that I feel like I have truly found balance, contentment, and purpose in my health and fitness.
My fitness journey really started my senior year of high school when I stopped playing sports and joined a gym. Prior to that, I had always played sports and never had to think about intentional exercise. When I started going to the gym I did mostly group classes, cardio, and some isolated machines. I didn't really know what I was doing, I just thought I needed to workout. I wasn't there to be healthy; my thoughts were just, am I thin enough here or there.
I maintained my basketball-body my senior year of high school pretty easily. But, when I went off to college, thankfully, baggy clothes were in. Big t-shirts and nike shorts helped hide the 15 pounds I had gained by the time my freshman year had passed. I guess I put on the weight evenly, or people were just lying to me, because nobody ever seemed to believe me when I told them I had gained that much.
At the start of my sophomore year I was the heaviest I have ever been, with no extra muscle to show for it. That is when I started to notice some of my unhealthy habits, and was really unhappy with what I saw in the mirror or in pictures.
I was disappointed with myself, and so tired of feeling crappy from my bad choices (food, drink, and otherwise). My interests slowly changed over my sophomore year, and I started to rearrange my priorities. Not only did I start growing tremendously in my faith, I started to get more serious about school, about life, and about health. I redeclared my major, from special education to exercise science. I started weight lifting. I started working. And, I started caring more about what I was putting in my body.
Through the rest of college, I did a little bit of everything on and off: weight lifting, cardio machines, intramural sports 3-4 days a week, Crossfit, running, swimming, Insanity, P90X, Hot Yoga, and the list goes on and on... On top of that I went through different phases with nutrition, from programs like Advocare & Isagenix, to diets like Paleo, Low-Calorie, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Whole 30 and more.
While I enjoyed all of those things, I never stuck with one long-term because I wasn't seeing the results I wanted. I was chasing the "toned" look, and in my eyes, wasn't seeing it.
Fast forward two years, to now... Let me tell you, NOTHING has worked like consistency does. Not until after graduation did I become truly consistent with exercise and nutrition, and that is when my body composition finally started visibly changing.
Where I'm at now is the product of almost two years of consistent working out and *balanced* healthy eating. It's a lifestyle now, an enjoyable lifestyle!
I love lifting weights the most, but I'll still dabble in all types of exercise! I track my food when I need reminders of portion sizes, and to make sure I'm getting enough of each macronutrient. But I don't stress about it because it's become a habit, and I've found out what works for me and what doesn't.
Today, I'm so proud that being thin or toned really is not my focus. I'm so relieved that I don't workout until I'm exhausted just to "look better." I'm so happy that I don't try to restrict myself to a crazy low-calorie diet during the week and then ruin it on every weekend.
Today, I'm more comfortable and confident in this body than I've ever been. When I workout my focus is "stronger." When I eat, my focus is "healthier." When I challenge myself my focus is just to be better than yesterday.
Now I'm in a place where working out is actually stress relief, versus stress inducing. I'm proud that I can easily say heck-no to certain foods, and not feel like I'm missing out because I remember how crappy they made me feel over and over in college. I'm equally as proud that I can indulge in "bad food" now and then and not feel guilty, because I know I can do it with balance and moderation.
Over many years on this journey, I've learned that my value, and yours, is not in looks or weight or size. I think we all know that to some extent, but we need to remind ourselves. On the other hand, that doesn't mean we should just "let ourselves go." I don't believe that is honoring our bodies either!
The best thing I've learned how to do throughout my fitness journey is to prioritize health. Is this exercise making my body healthier & stronger? Is this food helping or hurting my body? These bodies are a gift, and I want to steward mine well. I want all of us to be as healthy and strong as we can be, so that we can fulfill all the plans that God has for us, to fully live out our callings.