My Journey to Health: Learning How to Love Myself
A few years ago I was asked to write about my fitness & health journey/transformation for the gym I worked at! I always love to read what I wrote back then to reflect and see what headspace I was in then compared to now.
I've learned a lot over the past several years in regards to health and fitness & I think it's super important to share my story with you guys to show my passion for this & why I created Live Better Balanced! This is a Q&A format, so feel free to read along!
Q: What kind of a transformation did you have? (weight, injury, health, etc.)
A: My transformation was a health and mindset transformation where I learned to listen to my body, love myself and my image, and focus more on my strength and abilities, and the positive aspects of my life.
Q. How did you feel about your health or confidence before your transformation?
A: For most of my life, I have always felt that I am generally healthy. I’m active and try to eat as healthily as possible. However, my negative body image began about a year and a half ago during the internship of my senior year at Illinois State.
This time of my life was a huge transition for me as I went from being a full-time student with time during the day to workout, get homework done, nap if I needed to, and hang out with my friends – to a full-time intern, waking up at 4:00 a.m. and working 40 hours per week at a site that was an hour drive each way, with seemingly no extra time to get anything done.
Unsure of what actually caused the change in mindset, maybe it was not having the time to fit in my workouts or the lack of energy from getting minimal sleep – I began spending at LEAST 2 hours on the treadmill each day. I was able to do so as we were encouraged to “work out” or “socialize” with the patients in the outpatient cardiac rehab clinic I was interning at.
I had this feeling that if I were spending so much time on the treadmill, I would lose weight. This prompted me to begin tracking my calories, which sent me into a new realm of negativity. I would avoid eating much during the day so that I could eat a bowl of ice cream each night and eventually came to the point where I felt guilty for eating anything.
Restricting myself led to bingeing on the weekends causing a vicious cycle of anger and guilt. Throughout the last year and a half, I was off and on with tracking my nutrition, prepping/weighing/measuring everything I put into my body, restricting myself, bingeing, and pushing myself to the point of exhaustion and soreness that made it impossible to get off the couch by the end of the week. My health began to take a toll as I developed a digestive disorder and worsened my already existing hypoglycemia. I came to the point where I could not walk in front of a mirror without checking to see if my abs were still visible. I was depressed, had no self-confidence, and hated my body.
Q: What made you want to change?
A: My transformation didn’t actually occur until quite recently – maybe only 2 months ago. As I mentioned, I spent a lot of time measuring out my food, weighing the portions, and tracking it on My Fitness Pal. At some point I switched to tracking macronutrients rather than calories, which turned out to be very time consuming. A typical “Meal Prep Sunday” consisted of cooking for about 4-5 hours.
During the week, I would then spend at least 1-2 hours each day inputting my meals into the app on my phone and trying to fit everything into my macros. When I went over on something, guilt took over once again. I switched to macros because of the hype of “flexible dieting” – eating whatever you want, as long as it fits your macros. I started eating ice cream and cookies every night, which were things that I had tried to limit at some point during my journey. I felt a sense of freedom during the week and I was still seeing results. I lost about 5 pounds and felt leaner than ever. Weekends were still for bingeing, however. I didn’t track and ate whatever I wanted, so then I’d have to make up for it each week.
I continued to push myself past my limits in the gym, sometimes working out 2-3 times per day. I was still unhappy and still restricting to some point since I felt I still had to splurge on the weekends. My social life started to diminish because of the time it took me to prep all my food and the fact that I didn’t want to “waste” my macros on something during the week. I once enjoyed cooking and coming up with new and creative recipes, but now I had to make the simplest foods to make sure I wouldn’t exceed my numbers. My boyfriend and I started arguing a lot because I wasn’t spending enough time with him and if it weren’t for him making me realize how obsessive I was becoming, I probably never would have made this change.
Q: What barriers did you deal with? How did you overcome those barriers? Did you ever quit or want to quit?
A: The greatest barrier I dealt with was social media and the voice inside my head telling me that I would never be good enough. I idolized all of the fitness models on Instagram and wanted to look just like them, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get there. I analyzed every part of my body, my diet, my exercise regimen and picked out everything that I thought I was doing wrong. Once I came to the realization that I had a problem – that I had developed an unhealthy and obsessive relationship with fitness and health and admitted that this lifestyle was never going to make me happy – I was able to overcome these barriers. I did so by unfollowing the fitness models on social media, refusing to spend hours looking at their pictures and trying to make sense of their eating habits and workouts, and started living for myself for the first time in forever.
My boyfriend, Ben, helped me to understand that I didn’t have to be like anyone else and that he would still love me no matter what I looked like. I realized that I could actually be healthy without looking like a bikini model. For once, I realized that maybe I didn’t need to lose weight or try to cut down to the smallest I could possibly be and decided to instead focus on building muscle and becoming stronger. This instilled a whole new feeling of self-love within me.
Q: What can you do now that you couldn’t do before? How do you feel now versus before your transformation?
A: I can now walk past a mirror without analyzing all the things that I once felt were wrong with my body. I can treat myself to a slice or two of pizza without fear that it’s going to ruin everything I’ve worked for. Now that I have set goals of becoming stronger, I listen to my body – eating when I’m hungry, resting when I need to, and building my workouts so that they are fun and in line with what I’m trying to accomplish. I can feel myself becoming stronger every day and although I may not have shredded abs or the perfect body, I am happy with the way I look. I feel confident and in control of myself. I have more energy, my mood has improved, and my relationships are better.
Q: What would you say to someone that is in your shoes on day 1?
A: Stop obsessing over social media. Do not live for anyone else and do not strive to look like anyone else. Set a goal for YOU. Do what feels right to you – in your own time – at your own pace. Fitness and health are meant to be a journey – one that’s lifelong and fulfilling, something that you’ll be able to maintain once you reach that ultimate goal. Nothing is impossible with hard work and motivation but the correct mindset is KEY. Keep a positive mind, love yourself, and you can do anything.
Are you in the middle of a health/fitness transformation? What does your journey currently look like?