Lessons From My Personal Health and Fitness Journey
For those of you who don’t know me personally, or haven’t been following me, eight months ago I had enough of how I was feeling, and the weight that had crept on over the past few years. In January I decided to finally take charge, and began a journey towards better health and fitness. My fitness coach had encouraged me to share some of my journey, although it wasn’t my comfort zone. But I did it anyway. Over the course of the last eight months I shared bits and pieces of my journey with my followers on social media. In a few months I discovered that what I was doing, and the progress that I was making, was inspiring others to make similar steps towards their own better health and fitness. I had no idea. My coach was right. So, I decided that no matter how uncomfortable I was sharing progress photos, pictures of food I ate, recipes, tips, etc., it was worth it if it even helped one more person take steps towards better health. And that’s what brings me here today. After eight months, 13 pounds, trial and error, I wanted to share my journey. What I have learned, where I have failed, in hopes that it might help others who have been on the fence about making changes. So the other day I sat down at the computer and began typing up my back story, and what got me to the point that I made the decision to take charge of my health. Three pages and a lot of word vomit later I realized that no one cares about what got me to that point. Everyone has their own back story, their own reasons why they haven’t taken care of themselves, eaten right, exercised, have health issues, etc. I am just like everyone else. So I scratched all of that, and decided that what was most important was what I have learned along the journey. What I have done. What I tried that failed, what I tried that worked, how I stayed on track, and how I faltered at times. Before I get to all of that, instead of pages of word vomit I will give you the Cliffs Notes version that led me to eight months ago.
Most of my life I never had to worry about what I ate, I had good metabolism and was able to stay pretty thin eating lots of junk I shouldn’t have eaten (I was a major carb and sweet junkie), and not doing much working out (I would go through phases of it). I was one of the girls people hated because I never had to try. I knew it would catch up with me at some point, and in my late 30’s it finally did. I went through phases that I tried to eat healthier and exercise, but then life, or injuries, would get in the way and I never stayed consistent. After the birth of my third child at 37 (nine years after I gave birth to my second child…) my body wasn’t what it had previously been. Between hormones, lack of sleep, and a busy life with a little one plus two older children, it was hard for me to focus on taking care of myself. (Okay, who am I kidding, I never was really good at that, but it was even harder now.) I put on an extra 10 or so pounds that I was struggling to get off. (I know this doesn’t sound like much, but it was a lot on my frame, and enough that it had begun to cause me a lot of other issues.) I knew that if I didn’t put a stop to it soon it was only going to get worse, and harder the older I got. My clothes didn’t fit, I didn’t feel good, I wasn’t sleeping well, I had chronic pain and inflammation, I was exhausted all the time, my energy level was really low, my auto immune skin condition was flaring up terribly. The list goes on, but these were the big ones that I struggled with on a daily basis. I was tired of feeling this way day in and day out. I was 41, I shouldn’t feel like this!
January rolled around and I begged my husband to let me try out a fitness and nutrition program that I had been watching a coach do for a year and a half. He asked me to be honest, was I going to stick with it? I had tried lots of things, and never stuck with any of it. I assured him that I would (although being honest with myself, I wasn’t sure that I could). I knew that one of my big struggles was figuring out exactly what I needed to do, and how to pull all of the pieces together. So I promised him that I would, that having everything I needed to do in front of me was what I needed, ordered the package, and immediately started on my journey. I was excited to feel like I finally had something that might work. Over the next eight months I learned a lot about my self- image, emotions, body, relationship with food, and what I liked and didn’t like as far as exercise goes. So here we go, this is my experience!
One of the big things for me had always been trying to do things on my own. That’s part of why I never stuck with anything. When I began my journey I had a fitness coach and an online group of women to ask questions of, share ideas with, share ups and downs with, and hold myself accountable. And I had a supportive spouse that was behind what I was trying to achieve. Whatever works for you, find someone or something. Have a workout partner, a group, join a gym. Ask a friend to help keep you accountable. Whatever it is, find support and encouragement. It makes a world of difference to know that someone else is rooting for you and your goals. I really don’t think I could have made it this far without the coach and group of women I was surrounded by online. It made me want to do better, be better, and stick with it.
Do It For Yourself
Health and Fitness is just like anything else. You have to want to make changes to be able to. You have to want it for yourself. If you are trying to make health and fitness changes because it’s what someone else wants you to do, and not for the right reasons, it will never work. You have to want it for it to drive you. My husband never made me feel like I needed to change my body. It came from an unhappiness with myself. Did he subtly tell me that I couldn’t just keep buying new clothes because I was gaining weight and nothing fit? Sure. But that was the honest truth. He was right. He never once told me I didn’t look good or make me feel like I wasn’t attractive. But now he tells me all of the time how great I look, how hard I’ve worked, how pretty I am. If that doesn’t encourage you I sure don’t know what will! It’s so nice to receive the recognition from my spouse and know that he is also proud of what I have accomplished, but to know that I did this because it’s what I wanted. This summer he did admit to me that the previous summer I was pushing being able to look decent in a bikini. But you know what, he never said that to me until AFTER I got back in shape. He never made me feel bad about myself. If you are the spouse of someone that needs a little work to get back to a healthier state, PLEASE read this and take it to heart. What they need is encouragement to make themselves healthier. Not derogatory comments about where they are.
Figure Out What Is Driving You
If you have goals and dreams, there has to be something driving those. Think about what those are. What are the real reasons that you want to achieve the health and fitness goals you have? In the beginning mine was losing weight. It quickly turned into so much more when I realized the changes it was making in my body, and I added to those goals to feel better and get healthier. And, I wanted to show my husband that for once I could stick with it. Part of me was all about just proving him wrong since I knew he didn’t think I would stick with it. The further I got in my journey, the more I reached and exceeded my goals, and added new ones. I never dreamed that my body would be as toned as it has become. That was not initially in my goals. But when you see changes and like what you see, it drives you even more to keep at it. Whatever it is that is driving you, think about that daily. If you keep your end goals in mind the baby steps will seem much more important.
Take Things At Your Own Pace
Everyone is in a different place when they begin a health and/or fitness journey. Some people have worked out before, some haven’t. Some have a lot of weight to lose, some have a little. Some have a lot of health problems, some have very few. Some don’t eat a very healthy diet, some eat very healthy. We are all different. We all come from different places and have different struggles. Yours will be different than mine. Sometimes you need to start with baby steps so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. And that’s OK. I had a conversation with a friend today that just started trying to focus more on her health. She seemed down on herself for the slow start and time of the mile she had run a few days this week. Hold up! You haven’t done any exercise for years. A mile, at whatever pace, three days this week, is a HUGE step towards getting yourself going. You are up, you are moving, you are doing something! In my book that counts for a lot. Maybe you start with giving up soda and then add in other dietary changes. Maybe you walk 10 minutes a few days a week and then work up to more days and more time. Maybe you quit having unhealthy snacks or processed food. Whatever little change you need to make to get started is a step in the right direction. Then just keep adding to those changes. For me, I knew that if I was going to do it, I had to go all in. I started working out every single day to create the habit. I cut out refined sugars. I started a balanced nutrition plan based on macro nutrients. I cut out processed foods for the most part. I drank lots of water. But that doesn’t work for everyone. We are all different. Just do SOMETHING. Every little something you change is better than where you were the day before.
Be Kind To Yourself
There is no doubt that along the way you will hit some rocky patches. You will miss workouts, you will eat things you shouldn’t, you may have injuries that slow you down. You may be at a place physically that all of this just isn’t easy. That’s OK. It’s a process and a journey. When you falter in your workouts and eating, just get right back at it. One day isn’t going to make a difference in the scheme of an entire journey.
Find What Works For You
For me, this was huge. I had dabbled with finding workouts on Pinterest and various things. I never could really find something I felt that I really liked. And I never knew how to put all of those pieces together. For me I knew I had to have a plan in place, something that told me exactly what to do and when to do it. The fitness plan that I signed up for had all of that put together for me. That took the guessing out of it so that all I had to do was figure out what type of workout I would enjoy. I tried a few different things and realized that anything aerobic, dancing, or plyometrics made me feel completely clumsy, and I didn’t enjoy them at all, and plyometrics workouts caused my knee and lower back to hurt more. I discovered that I really like a routine that has weights in it! Who knew! Once I was able to focus on that I began to look forward to and enjoy my workouts so much more. If something makes me feel awkward, I won’t want to do it. There are different kinds of routines out there to fit everyone’s style and needs. Some people love to dance (don’t get me wrong, I love to shake my booty, but not for my workout). Some people love yoga. Try different things until you find what best suits you. And that you enjoy. The package I ordered has all different types of workouts so I can move from one to another or change it up when I need to. And most of them are between 30-45 minutes, which easily fits in my schedule. It’s been great for me. And I loved that I didn’t have to go to a gym. Some people are more motivated at a gym but for me it’s just one more thing. If I work out at home I don’t have to work it around childcare, I don’t have to worry about people watching me (except my kids), I don’t have to make the excuse of fitting it in my schedule. I just have to walk downstairs and turn the work out on. How easy is that?! For me I discovered that if I get my work out done first thing in the morning there is more likelihood that it will get done, and other things won’t get in the way. So that has become my routine.
Don’t Kill Yourself With Long Work Outs
We used to be taught that to get in shape you needed to spend hours in the gym and doing cardio. Research is now showing us that this isn’t the case! You can get just as much if not more out of a shorter high intensity work out than spending two hours at the gym or lifting heavy weights and killing your body. This certainly makes it easier to fit in, and less reason to make excuses. And it it’s better for your body and can give you better results, well that’s a win win in my book!
Stick With It
You know that old saying that 21 days creates a habit? It’s true. The reason you need to try to do something every day is that it puts your body into the groove, it makes working out a habit that’s easier to maintain. The plan I first started following had a workout for every day of the week. One was a yoga routine which allowed your body to stretch and recover but it still kept you doing something. Don’t get me wrong, there were many days that I did not feel like doing it, or thought I will just take a rest day. But I stuck with it. And every week that passed made it so much easier to do it, and it felt like less of a chore. Before I knew it working out was a part of my daily routine, and I craved having it. I had more energy and my body was already feeling better.
Change Up Your Nutrition
It was obvious for me that the way I had been eating wasn’t working. This may not be the case for everyone, but even if you eat healthy and have plateaued and can’t reach your goals, it’s often related to your nutrition and how your body is burning the fuel you are putting in it. I knew I wasn’t healthy, and I knew what I needed to cut out. What I didn’t know was exactly how I should be eating to achieve my goawl. There are so many different nutrition plans that you can follow that will keep you on track, eating healthy, and fueling your body properly. I started out eating based on a macro nutrient plan. It helped to get me on a better track for eating a well-balanced diet, cutting out processed foods and refined sugar, reducing carbs, and increasing protein and vegetables. It worked great for awhile but then I felt like I had plateaued and like I was so focused on eating and fitting in the macros, and what I was putting in my body. It became harder for me to sustain. I began to crave more carbs, and even tried to find excuses to up myself to the next level just so I could eat more carbs. Over the summer I fell into some bad habits again and slowly let some bad nutrition creep back in. And then we went on a two week vacation. I gained back 5 of the pounds that I had worked so hard to take off! My stomach was starting to become a mess again and really causing me issues. My energy dipped. I felt more tired and wasn’t sleeping as well. When we returned from vacation I knew that I had to remove gluten, because long ago I discovered that it was the root of my stomach issues. I made a conscious effort to do so, and then started learning about the ketogenic diet. The science and research behind it made sense. My fitness coach was having great success with it over the past several months, so I decided to give it a go. I absolutely feared that cutting out carbs and all sugars (even natural ones like honey and maple syrup) was going to be the death of me. Seriously. I LOVE carbs and sugar, and had lived for them! But I gave it a shot and jumped in head first. Not gonna lie. The first 4-5 days were a struggle. I had a severe migraine, felt bloated, and at times lethargic. But I had read that this could happen, so I stuck it out. After my body detoxed again and balanced back out, I started feeling great. I quickly dropped a couple of the pounds I had put on and my body was leaning out again. Pain and inflammation was decreasing and I had more energy. Then two weeks later I added in taking an exogenous ketone supplement (check it out here) that helps to put the body in the state of ketosis. Game changer!
Immediately I felt better, had a lot more energy, felt more focused, performed better in work outs, started sleeping better, my skin began clearing up, pain and inflammation continued decreasing even more, my body really began to lean out, and I noticed drastic positive changes in the symptoms of my autoimmune skin condition, Lichen Sclerosus. If you have followed my journey with Lichen Sclerosus you know that this is a huge added benefit! The exogenous ketones have not only helped me with my fitness and weight loss goals, but have had so many added health benefits I can’t even tell you how amazing it has been! Not every nutrition plan works for everybody, so do some research and try some different things until you find what works for you, what you enjoy, and what is easy for you to maintain. If it is too difficult for your lifestyle and you don’t enjoy the way you are eating, you will never be able to maintain it long term. I’m not saying don’t ever enjoy a few things. There are times when you need to enjoy some pizza, a slice of cake, or whatever treat you enjoy. If you follow a healthy nutrition plan most of the time it won’t hurt you to have a cheat meal every now and then. It helps you to feel satisfied with how you are eating!
Listen To Your Body
Our bodies know what they can take, and when you are pushing it too much, and it has a way of letting you know it’s time to back off. This was tough for me to embrace at first, but I started realizing that I had to listen to my body and what it was telling me. I had to take a break from work outs for 6 weeks over the summer because my shoulder and lower back pain was really getting worse again and I was in a lot of pain. I knew if I didn’t rest my body I was only going to make things worse. So I took a rest, and then started back in doing some yoga to ease my body back into things. Between the rest, the yoga, and the change in nutrition of cutting out grains and sugar, my body healed and I was able to get back on track and back to normal work outs. During this time of changing up my nutrition I also learned that for me having grains and even the small amount of carbs and natural sugars that I had been eating only caused me to crave these things more. After I transitioned to the ketogenic diet and added in the exogenous ketones my cravings drastically reduced and for the most part are completely non-existent. I have learned that when my body has these things, it only wants more of them. And that is exactly what got me into trouble!
Stay Off The Scale
Yes, you heard me right. And yes, I know how impossible it is. In the beginning I was literally on the scale every morning watching for changes, and driving myself, and my coach, crazy when I didn’t see movement. My coach kept telling me to stay off the scale, but I just couldn’t! I wanted tangible results and I wanted them now! But in all honesty, it only made me more frustrated. The number on the scale will likely move quickly at first if you are drinking lots of water. Then it will become slow. Weigh yourself once a week, and first thing in the morning. More than that is unnecessary and will only make you frustrated with yourself. You may not see much movement on the scale for awhile, and then suddenly it will happen. That’s OK, just stick with it and you will see results!
Take Measurements and Photos
I cannot stress enough how important it is to do this! I took measurements and photos the day I began my journey. And those are how I was truly able to see my progress. My clothes felt like they were fitting looser, and I thought I was seeing changes, but when you put photos side by side that is when you will really be able to see the transformation. I did this about every month, and really helped me to be excited about the results I was achieving, and give me the drive to keep pushing forward. I know those first photos are not fun to take, or go back and look at, but seriously. Do it. I promise you won’t be sorry.
Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
This one is sooo hard, especially with social media. Remember that everyone’s body is different. Everyone finds progress at different rates. And not everyone’s body is intended to look the same. And seriously, a lot of the photos on social media do not show the full truth of how someone looks… There are many angles, lighting, and times of day that can make someone look drastically different. For me I know that especially my mid-section can change in appearance throughout the course of the day depending on what I’ve eaten, how much water I have drank, when I worked out, etc. I can take a photo in the morning and by noon look completely different there. So don’t let others photos and progress fool you, or discourage you. You are uniquely you, and that is perfectly OK. I still look at my mid-section and see cellulite and think that by this point surely that should be gone, especially 13 pounds later! But you know what? I’ve had three children. Not everything on my body will ever be able to look the way it did prior to growing, nurturing, delivering, and raising three kids! And now I’m OK with that. It’s part of who I am, and part of being a mother. I’m no longer ashamed of that. What I am is ecstatic with the changes I have made to my body, health, and mind.
Learn About Yourself
Along this journey I learned so much about myself that I hadn’t learned before, or hadn’t allowed myself to see. I never thought I could stick with it, I did. I never thought I could get back in this kind of shape, I did. I never thought I like lifting weight, I do. I never thought I could cut out carbs and sugar, I can. I realized that I am stronger than I think I am, and I can accomplish more than I ever dreamed I could. And it was all me. I was the one who was determined and put the work in. And I also realized that this journey was about so much more than just weight loss and fitness. I am in a better state emotionally. I have more self confidence. I feel better about myself and how I look. There is so much more of an emotional connection than I ever realized.
The long and short of it is that no one thing works for every person. Don’t become frustrated because one program or nutrition plan doesn’t work for you. Keep researching and trying different things! Once you find what best suits you and your lifestyle, you will get in a groove and be able to make headway towards your goals. Today, eight months later, I met, and exceeded my weight loss goal. I don’t even know the last time that I saw this number on the scale, or was this toned. It has been a really long time. I am probably pretty much at my ideal weight now. I love the muscle tone that I have gained and how my body has leaned out and looks healthy. My skin glows and is clearer. I feel great, inflammation and pain are pretty much gone. I never dreamed that I would be able to stick to it, let alone achieve what I have. All of the expectations I had eight months ago are out the window because I way surpassed them! It feels amazing to know that I accomplished this through hard work and dedication, and that I have found ways to sustain this lifestyle and be completely satisfied with how I am eating. Coming from a carbaholic sweet tooth, I am telling you that if I can do it, you can too! What steps will you take today that will help guide you to a healthier place?! You are stronger than you think!