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What I've learned on the road to a healthier me

May. 6, 2017
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Before we start, I must say that I’m no health expert. I have an extremely toxic relationship with candy and soda, any kind of real exercise makes me whimper, and I quit most of the health-related things I attempt to start. (I went one week on the Flat Tummy Tea Diet before I gave in. Even the cute packaging and my gold-lettered water bottle weren’t enough to keep me motivated to finish the month’s supply.)   

My whole life I’ve played the part—working on my appearance, perfecting emotions and responses to appear a certain way. But I’m starting to realize that I want more than just the appearance of satisfaction. I don’t want to appear healthy; I actually want to be healthy. I'm realizing that I want to feel and look good, from the inside out—and thus begins the journey.

Truth be told, I’ve actually had more starts than I’d care to admit. I’ve committed to gym memberships, Zumba on weekdays, and evening walks with my dog Sir and Uncle Ralph. It hasn’t been the perfect, linear path I think we all crave. But one thing I notice about myself is that I am persistent. I fall down a lot, but I’m always trying to get back up, someway, somehow.

This time around, though, I realized that if I wanted to make a lasting change, I was going to need to rethink my approach. And where else to begin my search than with my brother Michael, the fitness guru and gym trainer? Michael is very committed to his physical health, which I’ve also seen improve his mental health. Meal preps, protein shakes, classes at the gym—you name it, he’s mastered it. So I went to him for advice. I noticed I was feeling lethargic and having little energy throughout the day, and I wanted a change. (Let’s not forget the ever-present goal to tone and sculpt the extra pounds I gained last summer from medication and fast food frenzies—who doesn’t want to look fit for swimsuit season?) 

Michael was eager to help me, and gave me a ton of helpful tips:  “Crunches won’t make you lose weight; they’ll give you more muscle and that’ll actually make you bigger. It’s your diet” he said. I frowned. “Keep eating greens, and fruit is good, but remember—it also has sugar, which can make you gain weight. You’ll also need to do cardiovascular exercises, anything that gets your heart pumping, like the treadmill, or bike. Oh and stay away from carbs--breads, rice, grain, potatoes. It’s not that you can’t eat that stuff, just in proportions.”

But as I listened to Michael’s deluge of helpful hints, I realized that it all came back to making deliberate choices about how I treat myself. Lately, I’ve been trying to be better about the things I put in my body. My friend Sarah told me about the Whole30 diet, and I was excited to know that I could still eat meat (sorry, vegetarians, but I won’t be joining your ranks anytime soon). It encouraged me to take a journey back to natural foods, absent of of hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals. It’s been frustrating to see how a lot of labels use the word “natural” but when you turn the product around and take a peek at the ingredients, it is everything but that. The first week I totally tanked, but then I went grocery shopping and did meal prep to have things on hand to eat when I was hungry. 

After that point, it began to get easier. And I’ve noticed a pattern: the more adjustments I make toward living a more mindfully healthy life, the easier it is later on to make choices that build on those initial changes.

To be honest, the motivation comes and goes. But I think we just gotta  keep at it, doing the best we can, when we can. Today is a perfect example. I was supposed to go to the gym with my brother. The night before, I tried to put myself to bed early, and I woke up and was just not having it. Nothing could motivate me to get up, not even the fact that it was a Monday (perfect time for fresh starts, right?), nor even his text that told me I was making excuses. But later that day, I had some energy, and I decided to go to the gym. I rarely get energy, and I took advantage of the moment. Halfway through the class I had to stop because I pushed myself way too hard, but I did end up finishing. 

It was kind of embarrassing, but I met so many people that were supportive and it encouraged me to go again.

This is how I’ve found my way forward: bit by bit, one decision at a time. Do I sometimes get frustrated that progress never seems to come as quickly as I’d like it to? Of course! But in those moments of being too hard on myself, I try remember God’s grace, examples of my strengths and progress, and words of encouragement--like this one from Australian-American journalist and novelist Geraldine Brooks: 

You go on. You set one foot in front of the other, and if a thin voice cries out, somewhere behind you, you pretend not to hear, and keep going.  

Here are some things to keep in mind as you embark on your own journey toward a healthier you:

  1. Being skinny does not mean being healthy. We all have different body types, and while a slimmer image is praised in ads and magazines, being healthier is rewarding. (I am learning to embrace my curves and butt.) 
  2. Remember that the person in the mirror has feelings, so be kind to him/her as you express the areas you want to improve. 
  3. It takes time. This is something I fight against so much: I like instant change; I want instant results! But you just have to keep going until you get where you want to be.
  4. Try incorporating healthy things on your plate. Little by little. Natural foods. 
  5. Make sure you have support. Even if your friends and family can’t go with you, try a group class at the gym. Being around others who are also trying to get fit can motivate you. 
  6. You can do it. You CAN. Remember, it’s not the great steps and huge leaps that always cause change. Sometimes, it’s the small victories that move mountains.
  7. Imagine a healthier, happier you. Let that motivation take you away!

Tag @adolescentcontent to share your health milestones—or share what helps you stay motivated on your health journey below!