I didn’t always consider organic spinach to be a grocery staple. Neither did I grow up a natural athlete who enjoyed waking up at dawn for a sunrise run. I ate a disturbing amount of instant Ramen Noodles during my college years and preferred bad reality TV shows parked solidly on my couch to any sort of outside time. Its actually kind of amazing, as I think back on the person I used to be (and I was her for a long time), but I don’t even identify with that person anymore. Like all dramatic life changes, there was a “straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back” moment that changed it all for me.
Ten years ago, I was the last person I would have expected to be offering ideas and advice on living a healthy lifestyle. Back then, at what was supposed to be the beautiful and exciting age of 22, I was 70 pounds overweight, unmotivated, tired, and most importantly unhappy. I had every reason to be in love with life. I had just graduated from college and had gotten engaged to the love of my life, Ken. The world stood before me, full of opportunity and excitement, yet I passed on almost every adventure. I rarely exercised or got outside, and was more concerned about spending as little money as possible on my groceries than I was about the quality of what I was putting in my body. Who I was didn’t interest me, and it was clearly reflected in how I chose to care for myself.
My journey to the person I was then to the person I am now was far from a straight shot, and was (and will always be) riddled with imperfections and learning curves. But I did have a moment that snapped me into awareness of the reality of the proverbial bed I was making for my future self. I was making one of my very inconsistent, courtesy calls to the gym with a friend. The program would weigh you once a month and record your progress. As I stepped onto the scale, I braced myself for hearing that I had stayed the same or had only lost a pound. When the executioner politely informed me that I had gained 5 pounds and was now in the 200s, I felt a sudden shift in me.
I couldn’t believe it. At 22 years old, while I watched most of my friends prancing around in bikinis and size 2 jeans, I was tipping the scales at over 200 pounds? And the gaining was continuing! I made a halfhearted excuse about why I needed to skip the workout to my friend and fled the gym. I sat in my car, realizing that, without a doubt, it was time for something very different. I didn’t know what or how, though. Obesity is in my genes. Every woman in my family has struggled with her weight and I didn’t have a clue as to where to start to win the war they all had faced. At that time, I naively saw only two types of people: people who ate carrot sticks for dessert and ran 12 miles daily, and those who drove through Burger King for each meal. It didn’t occur to me that there was a middle ground.
It was right around this time that a co-worker invited me to go to a Weight Watchers meeting with her. Now, I will be honest and say that I no longer attend Weight Watchers meetings or closely follow the program, but in the interest of full disclosure, it was a major step in the healthy direction for my life. Through the program, I did find support and ideas of how to work exercise into my daily life, and how to slowly adapt myself to new, healthier eating habits. Once the weight started coming off in a natural, sustainable way, there was no looking back! I felt amazing! For the first time in my life, I was proud of my appearance and who I was.
I hit my goal weight 2 months before my wedding. On my big day, I had never felt more confident or alive for so many reasons.
Then life did what life does and threw me a curveball. My husband and I found ourselves caring for a beloved family member battling terminal cancer. It was heartbreaking to have to stand on the sidelines to and I suddenly had a deep, personal understanding of how precious health is. Playing witness my family member’s battle motivated me (and motives me daily) into getting myself as healthy as possible. During my time in hospital waiting rooms or simply trying to keep my mind busy, I started researching nutrition. In my readings, I stumbled across Kris Carr and her documentary “Crazy, Sexy, Cancer.” In her film, she documents her own battle with untreatable, stage-4 cancer and her journey to an organic, plant-based lifestyle as a way of managing it. I was so amazed by the power of nutrition and dove into every bit of information I could get my hands on to learn more. As I consumed books, blogs, articles and documentaries, I started to truly believe that being skinny should no longer be the measurement of health, but rather my entire lifestyle. I cleaned the Diet Cokes out of my fridge and replaced them with a BPA- free reusable water bottle (that goes everywhere with me). I stopped buying Lean Cuisines and started getting back to the basics of cooking for myself and my family on a daily basis. I found peace on my lunch breaks taking long walks away from stress when life seemed too busy for exercise. And at the end of the day, I opted to turn off the TV and play Battleship with my husband to unwind.
Like I said, my journey to this life has been full of twists, turns and derailments. And I am sure there are more to come (again, life= curveballs). But, I measure my successes in being able to chase my daughter around, being told by my doctor that my blood work reflects that my risk for having a heart attack is so low that they can’t even calculate it and being able to look at myself in the mirror as I get ready for the day and feel a sense pride and appreciation for how far I have come.