Nearly a month ago I wrote and published Fitness & Health: Part 1. To the many friends who not only encouraged my challenges but also gave advice on how to approach my goals, thank you! I am feeling much happier and healthier over the past month due to a variety of reasons: better nutritional choices, more daily exercises, and no more heartache. It’s amazing how much a month can make a difference in your life.
Today, though, I want to share how much a transition I have gone through over the past five years. I probably have hinted at these personal changes in my health in past posts, but here is the complete story:
I have fought against weight issues since I was about 10 years old. I have fought against self-esteem issues for nearly as long. This was due in large to an extended summer at my grandparents’ house where my diet consisted mainly of butter, high sodium, starches, and sugary treats. By the time I was in sixth grade I was the tallest and the heaviest person in my class. As a girl, this hit me especially hard as I began my trip down the bumpy road of puberty.
Thankfully, my parents urged me to join sports at a young age. I played softball and soccer since I was old enough, and joined my middle school basketball and volleyball teams as soon as I was able. Sports and being a team member were a large part of my childhood and one of the ways I met the most people outside m own little classroom. So by the time I entered high school, I had lost a lot of my childhood rolls, yet my low self-esteem remained.
Now when I say the rolls had disappeared, I don’t mean that my weight was under control. I fought with my appearance every morning, usually skipping a cute outfit for a long sweater or jacket — even in 80 degree weather — to hide the imperfections of my body. No matter how much I starved myself or drove my body to sweat during sports’ practices, I could never look like the “ideal girls” in movies and magazines. (Media is a huge harm to young girls today, but that’s a discussion for another time…)
So I hid my insecurities behind a smile. I enjoyed my time in high school, but I was always unhappy about my body and worried about how others portrayed me. When I look back at pictures from high school I can see the anxiety behind my smile. The way my shoulders slouched to tuck my stomach, the many layers attempting to slim my arms, the mostly upper-body shots to completely vanish my hips… these were all ways in which I attempted to make myself disappear. My weight fluctuated to extremes throughout the four years of high school, soaring as high as 210 pounds my sophomore year. It was not until my senior year, when I began to actually take in interest in dating and was looking towards college, that I began to place more focus on how to cease the rapid changes in my weight instead of simply focusing on how uncomfortable with myself I was.
I did “well” my senior year by basically starving myself. By prom, I was wearing a size 14 dress, a large improvement from my junior year’s size of 22. Unfortunately, when college began and I felt the stress of higher education, the no-eating habit turned into poor-eating habits. I began to eat my feelings. What I had lost from senior year was regained my freshman year seven-fold.
It happened somewhere in the chaos of the Freshman Fifteen/Fifty; I was given a strong knock over the head. I was very stressed out my freshman year of college. It was my first time away from home, I didn’t know anyone at my new school, my boyfriend/best friend lived two hours away, school actually required study time, and my roommate and I simply did not get along. As these stresses hit me one after the other, something snapped. I realized this was a new start for myself. One morning I woke up, looked in the mirror, and thought, “Hey, I’m having a hard time here but guess what? I’m still alive. I still have a fight in me.”
And so began what I like to call “my transition years”. I tried a number of approaches: self-dieting on only salads, joining Weight Watchers, enrolling in new fitness classes at college, going Paleo, attempting new detoxes periodically. Changes were happening, but they weren’t worthwhile nor were they permanent. It was not smart. It was not planned. But it was rewarding.
It was rewarding in the regard that I simply got burned out. I realized my approach at a change was just plain ridiculous and that I needed a seriously thought-out plan in order to succeed.
My extent with running started during Summer 2012 when I followed the Couch-to-5K Program and found myself enjoying the workout more than anything I had ever tried before. Running doesn’t cost a membership, doesn’t demand strict record keeping, and allows me to find time for personal meditation. As my interest in the sport continued in a relaxed sort-of-way throughout the 2012-13 academic year, I began to design a plan to turn my interest into a hobby. But then, things happen. My life became hectic as I added an internship to my part-time job and full-time student schedules. My relationships with a lot of people became strained. I was ashamed when I did something I never thought I’d have to do — I began to see a shrink. I had bouts of depression which included self-loathing. It got to the point where I couldn’t even perform a presentation in class without getting sick because I was so worried of my appearance/weight and the way others viewed me. Life was not good.
But God works in unexpected ways. As my junior college year began to wind down I received a post on Facebook concerning a local running group (Sunset Coast Striders) and a 5k Training Program the club was offering for the summer. Acting on impulse, I registered. Not only did I complete the 5k Training but I also aigned up for a Half Marathon Training Program following directly after. I ran over 15 races in 2013, including a half marathon. Running had not only become a hobby but also a passion. I was also down to my lowest weight, something of which I was extremely proud. I walked with a confidence I had never felt before. I was more sociable, more extroverted, more conscious of the world around me rather than just myself.
Running gave me the escape I needed from the person I had always been. In a sense, I ran from the Old Ashley. I am a completely different person than I was the majority of college and in high school.
And now there is the Ashley Of Today. I see my life a lot differently than I once did. Where I was once a very negative and self-concerning individual, not I live life with the thought that every situation has some sort of positivity behind it and that the world is a lot more broad than just my own little bubble. I no longer walk into a room and wonder if the people there like me. Instead, I wonder if I should like them.
I still may not be entirely happy with my appearance. I am proud of who I am, though, and the struggles it took for me to become myself. I look at myself in the mirror and see the stretch marks and extra skin and realize I had to fight for those imperfections. I remain an extremely active person. I run, spin, play ultimate, dig volleyballs, hike the dunes, dance my heart out, etc. I also eat healthily. I love vegetables and fruits, but I also partake in the delicacies of life. And I don’t discredit myself when I do! Instead, I enjoy those moments and balance them.
So, yes, I have goals I am working towards nowadays. But the end goal is to be healthy, not happy. Because I am already plenty happy with my life and who I have become.
As for the goals last month, here is my progress and changes for September:
- I will run at least 4 days a week, with a long run on Saturday mornings. I have decided against running a half marathon in October. Not only am I taking on more responsibility in my job, but I am also beginning to participate more throughout my community. Training for such a close race would be impossible and the chance of injury quite high. Instead, I have decided to train for a 10k in October, and to beat the very awful time of the Chemical Bank 10k from July.
To do this, I will be using the app Gipis. I will run at least 3 days a week, with a long run on Saturday mornings. (Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays)
- I will spin at least 1 day a week. (Mondays or Wednesdays)
I love spinning but unfortunately have not been to a class since July! I plan to attend at least 1 spin class a week. (Wednesdays or Thursdays)
I will hike the dunes or take a walk for at least an hour on Saturdays, following my long run. (Saturdays)
- Don’t get bored, try new workouts: yoga, body pump, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc.
Upon joining a Bible Study group in my community, I am now playing Ultimate Frisbee with them once a week. I also have signed up to be a basketball coach for a group of 4th grade girls twice a week, so I will have that source of activity in addition. I also am all for registering for hot yoga classes at a nearby gym for the month of September… I’ll get back to you on this! (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays)
I will start 30 Day Shred on the morning of August 1st and complete the challenge by August 30th. (Every day)
- Following every gym workout, I will do some sort of weight training — upper body, lower body, core.
- Fridays will be a rest day unless otherwise “traded” for another day during the week.
I have doing quite well on the “dieting” side of being healthy. I have remained under 1300 Calories (usually under 1200) most days. The exception is when I go out to eat at a restaurant. Any suggestions on how to help in this field — I’m all ears!! Unfortunately, I am much better at tracking on MyFitnessPal rather than in my May Book. I will have to start being more accountable for my hand-written records.
I am going to be going Paleo for the month of September. More on this at a later date. Overall, though, my goal to feel healthier was a success. I feel so much better! I have more energy, I can see a change in my physique already, and my mind is much clearer. I’m almost back to my 100% and I am thrilled — I’ve missed myself.