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Like many, my journey towards healthier living has been just that: a journey. It’s one that I’m still on.
It’s been full of ups and downs, inflating and deflating (thanks, three kids!), seasons of motivation and seasons of running on empty.
But, after stumbling on some old pictures from the past, I’m reminded at how far I’ve come.
15 Years Ago
The “before” pictures you see below were taken about 15 years ago in my 20s.
I knew I was gaining weight and didn’t know what to do about it. My thyroid levels were off, I had acne problems, and was constantly struggling blood sugar highs and lows. I craved junk food and was just overall not feeling very healthy.
I had tried to will power myself into eating healthier and exercising more but that would quickly fade and I’d fall back into old habits.
I knew if I were to really have success with something, I needed a plan. Not a diet. Not a fast. A long term plan.
That’s why I was intrigued by Weight Watchers. I knew a friend who had a lot of success with it and their point system was something I could see myself really using.
Months later I found myself looking up their meeting times and decided to sneak into the back of one. I walked away from the meeting signed up for the program and beginning my journey.
I was officially signed up and doing the Weight Watchers program for probably 4-5 months. It gave me the tools I needed and established some healthy habits that I still do (as best as I can) to this day. While I don’t agree with some of their methods, I can truly say being part of this program really gave me the jumpstart I needed.
From that point on, my journey towards healthier living was pretty uneventful. I did it the hard way. The RIGHT way. Slow and steady.
More exercise and better food choices. Nothing you haven’t heard before.
Better Food Choices
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Small things add up, good or bad.
I didn’t drastically change my eating habits. I just made small changes. I added more veggies to my plate, said no to a second roll, ate half of my piece of cake, chose balsamic instead of ranch, drank water instead of orange juice, etc. All these little things that I didn’t think made a difference in my health really added up!
I aimed to eat REAL, WHOLE foods and avoid processed ones.
I started to learn to cook at home and make food from scratch. Even though I was single, I made freezer meals that I would freeze in small portions to have later. I read books like In Defense of Food and learned how processed foods can really jack with your body.
Here’s what I didn’t expect (and would never believe until I experienced it.) I started to prefer healthier foods. I’m sure there is a scientific reason but my cravings for ice cream subsided and the idea of roasted vegetables sounded heavenly. The change for sure happened slowly but it was a “fake it to you make it” situation. After a created habits of eating healthier, my instincts followed.
I made exercise a priority.
On the weight watchers point system, more exercise meant I could eat more. That was motivation for me! If I knew I was going out to dinner or to an event where I would want to indulge a bit, I would make sure I got a good run in or something to earn me some flexibility.
Again, being on a plan helped me create habits that my body got used to.
Once you push through the discomfort of establishing regular exercise, your body will start to want it. I think since exercise was often used a punishment in in high school sports, I had a negative stigma attached to it. Thankfully I have overcome that and have truly experienced the benefits of regular exercise not only on my physical health but for my mental health as well.
I will say, prioritizing exercise got really tricky once I had kids.
I had to find ways to sneak exercise into my day. I joined a gym with childcare and sacrificed downtime and lazy mornings to be there. I for sure took days off but slowly, this habit became a norm and continues to be one in my life today.
The Best Online Workouts: Les Mills
Since a lot of exercise needs to happen at home these days, one of my favorite online workouts are by far LES MILLS On Demand. I can do almost any type of work out right in my living room.
Just this morning, I only had a 20 minute window and I snuck in some BodyCombat.
The classes have a variety of levels and are really fun and highly effective in a short amount of time.
In fact, Rachel and I have both been taking Les Mills classes for years at our gym and are sold on the benefits of these workouts. Apparently, 6 million other people do them around the world, too. When we found out that they can be streamed to your phone, computer, or smart TV, it was a no-brainer.
You should for sure take advantage of the free classes. FREE ONLINE CLASSES, YA’LL! You have access to over 1,000 of them for 30 days. This could be the jumpstart you need to get in the habits I was talking about above.
I am not the epitome of health. There are many people I know who eat much healthier than me and who exercise a lot more than me. I still have a sweet tooth and I still have a few pounds creep in if I’m not paying attention.
But I choose to do my best to make this a lifestyle and focus on health, not numbers.
I, like so many other women, have to fight the ongoing battle of attaching my appearance to my identity. I have to constantly remind myself that satisfaction and joy will never be found in my appearance– no matter what I look like. We are to be good stewards of the bodies that God gave us and part of that call is taking care of it without worshiping it.
Like I said before, it’s a journey. I have not arrived and as my body changes with age, I still learning what “healthy” looks and means to me.
Sometimes that means big changes and some times (most of the times) it’s a series of small changes that ends up making a big difference. It’s different for everyone and I hope my story can be encouraging to those who read it.