Growing up, I would say that my family had mostly healthy meals when we ate together. My mom always made a point to have a well balanced dinner with plenty of veggies on the plate. However, dinnertime was usually the only time that we ate together. I wasn’t one for breakfast, and skipped it most days. Lunch always consisted of either a turkey and cheese or tuna fish sandwich with chips packed on the side. And several cookies or Little Debbie snacks were had for after school snacks. I would say that as a child and teenager, I didn’t have the healthiest relationship with food. I hated fruits and veggies, and leaned more towards the sweet and salty tastes. I didn’t spend much time in the kitchen either, which only reinforced unhealthy eating and snacking of processed, sugar-loaded foods.
I guess I was blessed with a good metabolism, since I stayed a bean pole through childhood and my early teen years despite unhealthy eating habits and not a lot of physical exercise. It was the summer that I turned sixteen and had a job as a nanny through the week that I had my first weight gain of 12 pounds. I remember seeing my yearbook photo that year and calling myself a chipmunk. I couldn’t believe how pudgy I had looked. That little weight gain set me off on what felt like the never-ending diet.
During the subsequent school year, I started skipping lunch and going to the library instead. At that point, I wasn’t eating breakfast or lunch during the school week and had my first “meal” as an after school snack around 3 pm. I also started walking close to 2 miles in the evenings. Within a few months I had dropped those 12 pounds, plus some. I got quite a few compliments and felt great wearing a smaller sized dress for my junior prom.
By senior year of high school, I started eating lunch again, but placed myself on the Atkins diet. I had regular discussions at lunch about celebrity diets and how avoiding carbs was a good thing. My weight fluctuated, but stayed mostly in a healthy range. No matter what weight I was at though, I always felt like I needed to lose five pounds. I never felt great in my skin and had such a distorted view about my weight. I always felt like an over sized giant next to my friends, when in reality, we were the same size.
It makes me so sad to look back on myself in high school. I can’t believe I thought I was overweight and put so much energy into trying to lose those “last five pounds”. It would only take my freshman year of college for me to realize that I wish I appreciated my body size and weight when I had it.
I don’t know how to quite describe my diet during college. Several meals consisted of fried or greasy food. Meals were eaten anywhere between 7 am to 3 am, depending on my class and studying schedule. Lots of alcohol was consumed in the form of sugary drinks on the weekends. When I lived off campus, most meals were picked up through a drive thru or heated up in a microwave. My unhealthy eating habits were so well known that one year for my birthday my college roommates gave me a family sized bag of Ruffle potato chips and several packs of Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups as a birthday present. My biggest fondness was towards McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and Taco Bell’s Crunch Wrap Supreme. Talk about quick and easy food that didn’t require work. And I used to frequent Checkers (for their hot dogs and fries) so often that the woman who worked the drive thru automatically knew my order when I pulled up. This was a hit to my self esteem, but not enough to stop me from doing it.
Despite these unhealthy habits and the subsequent weight gain, I actually wasn’t concerned about my size even though it was increasing. I was in complete denial of the weight gain and thought it didn’t show. I was right on the borderline of doctors’ charts for healthy and overweight, but for the longest time, I still squeezed myself into my high school jeans and would just ignore the muffin top, thinking no one else would notice. Whenever I felt like my weight was getting too high, I would cut out carbs from my diet for 2-3 weeks until I shed five or six pounds and felt better. I let my weight yo-yo up and down between a 15 pound range all throughout college. Forget about binge drinking in college, I had turned into a binge eater.
Once I left college and started my real life with a job in August of 2008, my eating habits didn’t change much. I still didn’t know how to cook for myself, didn’t eat fruits or veggies voluntarily, and wasn’t concerned with what I was putting in my body. I knew that I should be eating healthier and cooking for myself, but didn’t know where to begin. It took about nine or ten months before I finally started making little changes in my diet. I didn’t let go of my fast food or my Ruffle chips exactly, but I started adding in more veggies and lean meat into my diet. I would look up recipes online that were simple and easy to try. I also tried adding in more fiber dense foods in the form of pasta, muffins, and cereal. I was still eating my fast food and junk, but I was getting better.
Shortly afterwards in August of 2009, I adopted Prince and we began taking 2-3 mile walks every day. That eventually led to bigger things like going on hikes and smaller things like taking the stairs at work. These were big changes from my normal couch potato lifestyle. I also started limiting my fast food and junk indulgences to just once a week. I started paying attention to the kind of food I was putting into my body and started doing research on it. I read up on what organic meant and what the benefits of fiber were. I started to learn how our bodies respond to different foods and what sort of nutrients it needs.
Without realizing it, I was turning my life around. I began feeling better about myself and felt good that I was trying live healthy. All of the changes that I made were driven by wanting to live healthier, and not by trying to lose weight. However, within a few months, I had lost over 20 pounds (about 25 from my highest point in college) and dropped down two sizes! It came as such a surprise to me that I had lost any weight because I felt like I wasn’t even trying. Like I said before, I was in such denial over my weight gain, that when it came off, it didn’t seem like a big change to me. During the months that I started making lifestyle changes, I never stepped on a scale since I wasn’t concerned with numbers and I never imagined that my body would change so much.
Ever since the age of sixteen, I felt like I was on some sort of diet where I would weigh myself every other day and beat myself up if I hadn’t lost any weight, or even worse, had gained some. And if I wasn’t dieting, I was filled with guilt over the fact that I wasn’t. I would always try to restrict the type of foods that I would eat (I viewed pasta and bread as being the devil for their carbs and fruit too because I had heard it was high in sugars) and could never last longer than a week without breaking down and chowing down on the wrong kind of foods (i.e. chips). This time around proved to be different. I wasn’t restricting myself from sweets or carbs. I was just choosing the RIGHT kind. Once I made my goal just to live a healthier lifestyle and not to drop pounds, the weight loss just happened naturally.
Currently, I’m in such a happy place with my body. Sure, I still have my insecurities over certain features, but it certainly isn’t with my body size or weight! Treating my body right and loving it for what it is makes me feel good inside. I sleep better at night, my skin is clearer, and I tend to have more energy during the day. I won’t say that I live 100% healthy all of the time, but I strive towards that, and I think that’s all that matters. Junk food still sneaks into my diet from time to time, but I know that’s ok and it isn’t the end of the world.
Now that I have seen some results from living a healthy lifestyle, I have made it a bigger priority in my life. The more you learn about the benefits of eating natural, wholesome foods and the dangers of eating processed junk food, it’s hard NOT to make it a priority. I’m hoping that this blog will keep me motivated to continue down this path and that I can share information that I learn along the way with you all and maybe learn a couple things from you as well!