Today I am going to tell you a little story. Well actually, it’s a pretty big story. And this is just part one of what will probably be a few ‘chapters’ I will write about here.
This is the story of what I have come to think of as “my health journey.”
I call it my health journey because it’s been a long and winding road to where I am today, and I most certainly was not always an active person who was into fitness and nutrition. Not to mention that this process is ongoing and ever evolving (perhaps I should be calling it “my health evolution” instead!).
Prepare yourself, it's kind of a long story...
This journey is something I’ve been reflecting on recently, and I hope that writing about it here will not only be a way for you to get to know me better, but also for me to have a better understanding and appreciation of the process and the things I have learned along the way.
It’s easy to get caught up in where I am now vs. where I started. And I think it’s helpful to look back at times and consider the bigger picture - the entire journey and not just the destination. (Plus, there isn’t really a ‘destination’ because like I said, it’s a constant evolution!)
So, let’s go back to the beginning; before I was doing any kind of workouts or exercise, before I had any idea of the importance of nutrition and sleep - back when I just wanted to feel more fit and healthy, have more energy, and be more comfortable with my body.
We shall begin at the beginning.
I started riding horses when I was a little over 6 years old, but that really was my only form of exercise when I was younger and into my teens. I wasn’t at all aware of my food choices and didn’t even think about what was healthy or not – I just ate what I wanted.
I was a typical teenager, with a fair amount of "less healthy" nutrition choices.
Like most females, I gained weight going through puberty, but it wasn’t something I "grew out of" and I became increasingly self-conscious. I wanted to be strong and fit instead of feeling tired and out of shape, but I had no idea how to make that happen.
I would jump into some exercise program I had devised for myself, vowing to do cardio every day, buying exercise videos (back when that was a thing), and trying to eliminate ‘bad’ foods.
I would fall into this all-or-nothing trap again and again, sticking with it for a week or two and then giving up because it wasn’t fun, I wasn’t seeing immediate results, and it was uncomfortable.
I did this many times over.
I had no real plan because I didn’t know what would actually work, and so I would just wing it and hope for the best. When motivation struck I would be totally gung-ho, only to have the momentum fizzle out when it became clear that what I was doing was unsustainable.
The dreaded elliptical machine.
Fast forward a few years to when I start college. I’m still feeling unfit and self-conscious, still wanting to have a consistent exercise routine and to eat better, and still not sure what that means or how to go about it. But this time I took a different approach.
Instead of trying to go all-in, I decided I would get up every morning to take a walk and that I would run just a little bit. Every few days I would add on a tiny bit of time to amount of running I was doing. I had finally created a plan that was manageable and clearly measured progress in a meaningful way.
And instead of trying to completely overhaul my eating, I just tried to make better choices, like eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer desserts or processed foods.
I still didn't really know what I was doing when it came to proper nutrition, but at least I was making some positive changes by adding in higher quality food and bringing awareness to what I was eating.
I'd visit the salad bar at lunch and bring fruit back to my dorm room. Small changes!
Even though I didn’t see immediate results and it still felt hard or uncomfortable at times, I could tell that I was making some progress. I was staying consistent, I was able to run a little bit more every week, and I was feeling better physically and mentally because of the choices I was making.
Slowly but surely, I started to actually see the results I was after. I could run a mile! My clothes were fitting better, and I had more energy. I felt like I was kind of getting into shape and feeling more like the fit and healthy person I wanted to be.
Along the way, I had been doing more reading and learning about fitness (albeit mostly from such high-level publications as Shape and/or Self magazine) and was realizing that adding strength training was going to be the next step I needed to take. I started trying a few weight exercises here and there, took some health and fitness classes in college, and eventually did some sessions with a personal trainer.
This was the beginning of my interest in the ‘why’ behind it all. As I continued to progress and actually started to enjoy my workouts, I also wanted to understand why my trainer had me doing certain exercises or in a specific order, how she knew what weights to use or where to set the machines, or what other fitness and nutrition knowledge I could gain to keep moving forward.
In part 2 of my health journey evolution, I will go into what came next: the ever-increasing pressure to keep doing more (because more must be better!), the fear of losing progress, and the eventual total and complete burnout. Stay tuned!
And since I’ve come across some great quotes lately, I will leave you with this one (that I found while re-reading Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection):
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and
beginning the work of becoming yourself.”
- Anna Quindlen
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