Usually when I hear the words “Transformation Tuesday,” I think of the show Extreme Weight Loss, or incredible stories of people’s lives who have been transformed as they lost a hundred pounds, completed a walk to run program to run their first 5K, and started cooking healthier meals for their family. My transformation Tuesday story isn’t quite like that; but then again, everyone’s will be different. My transformation Tuesday story that I’m sharing with you today is a story about my fitness journey, my journey that led to a healthy and strong lifestyle.
Let’s start at the beginning, when I first started to run, in my junior year of college. Not long before that, my mom had gotten into running. I was motivated by this thing she loved so much that was causing her to want to wake up at 3:30 a.m. to partake in. The only thing I partake in at 3:30 a.m. is coffee, with a side of coffee. My mom’s dedication was very inspiring to me, though, and motivated me to get out there and start to run, just for exercise.
It wasn’t long before I began to see why she loved the sport so much; soon, my days weren’t complete without a good run. I typically kept my runs between 3-5 miles each day, often running at the treadmill or track at my college’s indoor gym. I ran a handful of 5K’s, and decided to train and complete a half marathon in the fall of my senior year, 2012. Since we know how much I love chocolate, I signed up for the Hershey half marathon in Hershey, PA. The location was also good since it was only about 45 minutes from my college.
I didn’t follow a specific training plan for the half marathon; my training plan simply was to run often and run far! I tried to complete one long run each week, usually on the weekends since I had more time. As I continued to add on miles each week, I slowly began to lose weight due to the increased amount of cardio I was doing. I took the occasional body pump (weight lifting) class at my gym when I was home for breaks, but at school all of my exercise came in the form of cardio, and running. I didn’t notice at first that I was losing too much weight, but family and friends started to make comments when I came home on weekends occasionally, asking if I had lost weight. At first people were telling me how good I looked, so of course that made me feel good about myself. However, the more I continued to run and lose weight, the more comments turned to concerned ones and people asked how much weight I was trying to lose, or if I was eating enough.
Around Christmas time, I started to notice that my clothes were fitting much looser (who knows how, as I do not hold back on the Christmas cookies, ha), I bought new jeans at American Eagle that were a 00, and started to notice myself having more anxiety about food and eating. I felt more confident in the way that I looked, yet with this new “confidence,” I also felt this sense of anxiety when it came to eating. I thought, “this is great, I lost weight without even trying, just by starting to run and exercise,” and I didn’t want to eat too much and gain weight, to mess up the progress that I had just made. I say progress because through running, I did make progress. I incorporated exercise as a part of my life, got in much better shape, and accomplished goals by running 5K’s and a half marathon.
But the thing was, even though I knew inside my head that I was feeling anxious, I didn’t want to admit it. Of course no one wants to admit they are having a hard time with anything; we all like to look put together in life. I want to make sure I am clear about my story though; at no time did I ever consider myself anorexic or starved myself. I simply tried to eat a lesser amount and choose healthy options so that I did not gain any weight back. I would look at the nutritional facts on every label, and literally choose the granola bar that was 110 calories instead of 120. Yes, little changes over time do add up, and I am a huge advocate for reading all the labels!! But it shouldn’t be done in a way that stresses you out, or is your make or break decision for every single thing you eat.
Ladies, we all know it’s hard. You see pictures of photo shopped, airbrushed women on magazine covers, on commercials, on billboards, and if you’re not careful it’s easy to begin to hold yourself to that standard and think you need to look like the pictures you see. If you need a reminder of this, check out a previous post I wrote on the topic here- “ You’re Beautiful.”
When I graduated from college in May 2013, I returned home for the summer. I no longer had to buy my own groceries or do all of my own cooking, so eating at home or having my mom’s cooking was a little different than the college dinners I would throw together. Probably a little more nutritious, too. Her homemade chocolate chip cookies may have helped as well! I slowly began to make a conscious effort to eat more; since I was still running and working out, I wanted to make sure I was fueling my body enough.
That summer, I took more classes at my local gym in addition to running, attending body pump classes that incorporated weight lifting and body weight exercises. The more I worked out and lifted weights, the more I realized that I needed to eat enough or I wouldn’t make any progress getting stronger. In my case, I found that the more I lifted weights, the more often I wanted to. I liked how strong I felt through lifting weights. When you first start working out, your progress is evident more right away, and I could tell I was making progress by seeing the muscles in my arms grow. I started to gain more weight, though I still had some anxiety when it came to food and eating.
I also began to read healthy living blogs online to read other’s stories, and learn ideas for workouts and recipes. The first blog I started reading regularly was Peanut Butter Fingers; I’m pretty sure that one summer day when I discovered her blog I sat at my dining room table and just kept clicking “previous posts” to read more. She made fitness seem like a natural lifestyle, not something that is stressful. Her take on a healthy lifestyle seemed fun, positive, and most importantly, attainable. Her blog actually inspired me to start one of my own!
Over the course of the next year, I incorporated more weight lifting into my normal exercise routine, and continued to increase my strength. Along with increasing strength and confidence, my weight began to increase slowly as well. My anxiety about my appearance or food didn’t disappear overnight, but was more of a process. I feel that a huge part of my success came from the confidence I felt through working out. My anxiety because to lessen because I developed the mindset of eating to fuel my body.
Looking back, I can’t pinpoint one specific time or date when I feel like I really got “stronger,” or got over the anxiety I had. I tried to remind myself that I needed to fuel my body with healthy, nutritious foods, or I wouldn’t have the energy and drive to continue to work out, and that was something I had really started to enjoy. Making a conscious decision to stop and replace a negative thought in my head with a positive one really helped to change my mindset as well. It was definitely a process, and I am thankful for my family and friends in my life who were there to support and encourage me along the way. I want to point out that everyone is different; some people are naturally built taller, shorter, stronger quads, toned abs, etc … we are all different and that should be embraced! So in no way am I saying anyone who is the weight I was or necessarily being that thin is not healthy; I was merely saying that was not a healthy weight for MY body at THAT STAGE in my life. In fact, for me, the journey was more about feeling strong mentally than my appearance itself. The more you consciously choose to make positive, healthy choices, and the more you pour encouragement and truth into your life, the stronger, more confident you will feel. Every accomplishment truly does start with the decision to try.
The girl on the right is happy, healthy, and strong. The girl on the right can pick out clothes that match, throw them on, and go – without trying on outfit after outfit, analyzing which one makes me look smaller, or which one I feel more confident in. The girl on the right makes time for running, and for lifting weights each week. The girl on the right places an emphasis on being strong, not skinny. The girl on the right is a million times more confident than the girl on the left.
And I am proud to say that I am that girl.
Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re struggling with something similar and would like to chat more about it; I would love to share any advice that I can or help out.