It’s National Women’s Health Week, so I’ll be posting a couple of articles about my views on health, weight loss and fitness.
First off, I want to give you a brief history of myself and what I’ve been through with my body, because that colors how we view these issues so dramatically. So here it is, the scary truth.
(Yes, this post will contain a lot of photos. Deal with it.)
Disclaimer: I was really lucky to grow up with a group of friends where our weight and body type was not a giant concern for us. At least we didn’t think it was. Looking back, however, it was always there. At least it was for me.
Here I am in my senior year of high school, weighing in at 150 pounds and standing 5 feet, 4 inches tall.
Not too bad, right? Most people always guessed my weight at around 135 or 140, but that’s because I was strong. I played basketball, ran, went to the gym, all of that. I had broad shoulders (still do) that held a ton of muscle. I could squat around 90 pounds and lift two cases of raw chicken at once. (I used to work at a Boston Market, okay? A case of raw chicken weighed about 10-15 pounds on average.)
Here’s a front shot, taken on the same day, wearing the same clothes. (disregard the ridiculous sunglasses, they were a gag gift because I was moving to Ohio).
I was strong. And I hated it. It came from years of playing soccer, basketball, horseback riding, and pretty much any other organized sport you can think of. I was always told that I was built like my father, which in my head translated to: You are built like a boy.
So that is what I looked like when I left for college in the fall of 2006. Desperate for a new physical activity, I joined rowing. And gained 8 pounds of pure muscle.
Honestly? I was horrified. In my mind, I was already a hulking beast of a girl, who could squat more than most of the guys I hung out with. (Church boys and nerd boys, amiright?) And don’t get me started on the girls. I was surrounded by what seemed to me to be the smallest girls who looked just like what the world wanted out of a woman’s body.
This was taken during Thanksgiving break, 2006, after 4 months of being a NCAA Division 1 athlete.
I was 160 pounds of muscle and 20-30 hours/week of work outs. That’s the life of a D1 athlete, if you didn’t know. Rowing is one of those sports where a 3 hour training session will burn between 1500-3000 calories. So basically I ate whatever, whenever and how ever much I wanted. I didn’t hate my build as much then, mostly because it helped me win races. But I still wasn’t 100% accepting of it.
But then I quit rowing. But I kept eating. And I quickly ballooned (yes, that is the proper term) to around 170 pounds.
By the summer of 2007, I was like this.
I started hiding behind my clothes. Layers, long shorts and wide straps.
Then I looked back at my pictures from the previous semester. I was appalled. I had gone from a normal sized girl who was strong and happy, to someone who hid under layers, avoided cameras, and untagged any photos that weren’t from exactly the right angle, or showed anything below the waist. Seriously, try and find pictures on my Facebook of the spring of 2007. They’re gone.
I had been 160 pounds of muscle, but in the span of 5 months, my lack of exercise and my horrible diet had turned the majority of that muscle into fat, and landed me in the doctor’s office for high cholesterol.
I began running, and became frustrated when I wasn’t seeing any difference on the scale. I know now that it was because I kept eating like crap, and would continue to do so through college.
So once I got my cholesterol under control, I became complacent. I figured this was my body and I’ll just have to deal with it.
It got to the point that I didn’t even notice the weight come back until 2012, when I went to the doctors office and weighed in at 185, with high cholesterol and a vitamin D deficiency.
At first I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to bulk up, but I was so unhappy with my body that it started affecting other parts of my life as well. I was working 2 jobs and freelancing as well as doing some volunteer work at my Church. I stopped working out because I didn’t have the time anymore.
Things didn’t get better. When 2012 came around and it began to sink in that this wouldn’t change unless I did, that’s when I took action and joined WeightWatchers.
The rest is chronicled on this blog for your reading pleasure, but I’ll sum up the changes I’ve made that have taken me from the cusp of wearing a size 16 jean to swimming in my size 10 jeans in just a year.
- You are what you eat. Seriously, about 80% of your body is what you put in it. The rest is your activity level. You can run all day long, but if you’re fueling your body with crap, you won’t see results.
- Diet can only take you so far. I lost 10 pounds using just diet in the past year. Unfortunately, since I wasn’t pairing it with adequate exercise, I gained most of it back.
- Honestly? Throw out the scale. I am convinced it is a deranged torture device used to keep women from focusing on the issues that really matter. Use your measurements as a guide. Use your energy level. Use the number of squats you can do in a row. Anything else, really.
- You don’t have to eat food you hate to be healthy. Seriously. My meal plan calls for tofu, and mushrooms and other things I will not touch. (ahem, tofu). Talk to your doctor, your trainer, the internet and find an alternative. If not, throw it in the blender with some fruit and milk and drink up. Eating healthy is delicious.
- Most importantly: you do not need to look like the girls on TV or in magazines to be beautiful. Be strong, be healthy, be who you are. If your body naturally leads you to be small and petite, that’s awesome. If you are naturally muscular and curvy, that’s awesome too. Love your body, love yourself, love your passions.
A big milestone for me was in the past few weeks when I learned that it is good to be strong. It is awesome to be able to squat 90 pounds at the age of 16. I have a new found sense of awe at the power of my body, and I can’t wait to see what else it can do.
I’m not ashamed of being strong anymore.
And that’s the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God.
(and just in case you were curious, the biggest change I have seen has been in the past few weeks during boot camp. See below.)