Weight. For many of us, it’s an ugly word. A word that has a life of its own. A monster that lurks behind every dark corner simply waiting for the optimal time to show itself—leaving us feeling like a failure. It not only affects our mood but our love for ourselves. I know this monster all too well, and it’s appeared in many shapes and forms throughout my life. The first time it manifested itself, I was nine years old. My green velvet leotard felt as if it were suffocating me. Something was off. As I looked around the gym, I noticed all the other girls. I noticed how skinny they were. It was a trait I hadn’t paid much attention to. I stared at myself in the mirror, noticing how I was taller and bigger than them. I started to feel sick. I cried myself to sleep that night. After two weeks of crying to my parents about hating gymnastics, I wasn't pushed to return.
At nine years old, I began counting calories. I’d go back and forth, depriving myself until I couldn’t stand it anymore and then eating everything in sight. This dangerous cycle only caused my body more harm, making me gain weight and ultimately left me feeling like a failure. This continued until ninth grade.
In health class we watched a documentary on bulimia. What was meant to inform us of the dangers of bulimia, didn’t register as such in my impressionable mind. All I saw was a girl getting skinny while eating all the junk food she wanted. This became my hidden secret until senior year when an even bigger monster appeared, anorexia.
I wish that I could go into further details for you about my senior year and my battle with anorexia, but this truth is, I don’t remember. I wasn’t me. I was a zombie. It’s like I completely blacked out these memories. I was so obsessed with not eating/eating what little I did, that I had no room in my brain to absorb anything else. I don’t remember seeing any of my friends that year because I practically didn’t. I ended relationships. I began losing my hair and hiding behind baggy clothes. I woke up each morning, ran, went to school, went to cheerleading, went to the gym after school, ate dinner by 6:00, ran, brushed my teeth, and went to bed. I will not go into my daily meals or times of the day that I ate. I do not want this to be for you what the bulimia video was for me. This was not living!
My freshman year of college, when everyone else was gaining their freshman 15, I was gaining the freshman 100. This is not a joke! My body had been so deprived of food for so long that it began to store every ounce it received, and it did so in areas I had never held weight before. The more I tried to cut back again, the worse it got. I had damaged my body so intensely that it would take years to forgive me!
Between sophomore year and senior year of college, I lost 20 pounds but still remained heavier than I was prior to the anorexia. I lost this weight practically effortlessly. I wasn’t counting calories or obsessing over my weight. I just attempted to be more active during my day and make healthier choices 80% of the time.
Once graduating from college, however, I began having numerous stomach issues. Gastritis and celiac entered my life. I found that dairy hurt my stomach as well. With a long list of things that I could no longer eat, I started researching foods and how they affect our bodies. I began experimenting with the vegan diet—purely for personal health reasons. What I found was that I no longer battled with the monster known as food guilt. I no longer left the table feeling guilty, overstuffed, or uncomfortable. For someone with stomach issues—and a distorted relationship with food—this was a blessing. (Note: There are proper food combinations that are essential for digestion. A guideline can be found in my e-book.) I also found that my face cleared up—after my body detoxed. I immediately felt leaner, and without having to worry about macros or calories, I began losing weight. I have lost 45lbs since switching to a vegan diet--65lbs total since my highest weight. For those of you that are still with me, my diet consists of completely vegan and gluten free foods. I also aim to eat two raw plant-based meals a day. You can be vegan and eat all the chips and pasta you want—which is probably not the healthiest choice. (I will write a post dedicated to veganism soon.)
I began working out more since dating Heather. While I do love to exercise, I can also relate to those that feel the gym may not be for them. I go in and out of gym mode! I listen to my body. On days I need rest, I rest. On days I feel like a beast, I take advantage of that feeling and kick ass in the gym. Some days I go to the gym and end up simply stretching and working on my hand stands and yoga poses. I listen to my body. Listen to yours, but know that fitness is just as mental as it is physical. If you are doing your best in the kitchen and in your daily activities 80% of the time, then you will be successful in reaching your goals.
My greatest advice is to love yourself just as you are in this moment and every moment. If you love yourself just as you are daily, the process will feel effortless. If you are constantly comparing yourself to others, to your goals, or even to your past self, you will get discouraged. You can’t compare your day one to someone else’s year five. Also know, IT IS OKAY TO START OVER! Do not let that ugly monster win! End everyday reflecting on what you can improve tomorrow. Start everyday striving for your personal best, but do not obsess over the weight monster. Make healthy choices and the rest will fall into place. The greatest transformation pictures are by those that created a lifestyle for themselves, not a quick fix. Being truly healthy—on the inside and out—is the ultimate gift you can give yourself, and you deserve it!