Note: I want to make it clear that this post is not designed to promote or induce shame. Nor is it designed to preach that my journey to a healthier me is the right path for everyone. This is simply my story of how I became fed-up with not feeling like I was living my best life.
Outside of pregnancy, I was at my heaviest last summer. While I was relatively active, I wasn’t working out regularly and I wasn’t paying much attention to what I put in my mouth. I’ve always embraced my athletic build and never sought to be skinny but as I entered my mid-30s, my arms and legs became less toned and I noticed visceral fat settling in my midsection and thighs. I initially chalked having to go up a size as a causality of getting older in a body that carried and birthed two children. Having struggled with bulimia in college, I’ve worked hard over the years not to obsess about the number on the scale or the size of my jeans. I was (and continue to be) proud of my curves! As long as I was feeling good and looking good, I was happy with my body.
And then I stopped feeling good.
Last November, I finally scheduled an appointment with a doctor sharing the same name as a famous movie star whose heyday was arguably the 1990s. I’ve never had a primary care physician in my adult life unless you count the OB-GYNs I visited regularly during my pregnancies and my last physical/well-visit was three duty stations ago so it was time for me to see a health professional outside of an urgent care setting. I was feeling sluggish, more tired than I thought I should be, and I felt that my midsection was bloated and squishier than it’d ever been in my adult life. Also, I was having knee pain for the first time in my life. I wasn’t my best self – both mentally and physically – and I knew it. And truth be told, I was a little scared that the root of my blah was something beyond my control.
During the appointment, the doctor sat down with me for almost a half-hour. We chatted about my concerns and discussed the joys associated with being a woman on the downhill slide to 40. I appreciated the frankness of the doctor – I was carrying a bit too much weight on my 5’7” frame and it was painfully obvious that what worked for me in my 20s and early 30s wasn’t working anymore. She was upfront and said that she thought upping my nutrition game and increasing the intensity of my workouts would alleviate a lot of my complaints about feeling sluggish and knee pain during physical activity. She wasn’t telling me anything that I didn’t already know. But hearing her say that if I didn’t change my current routine, I’d likely gain weight with each passing year due to the nature of being a female with a rapidly dwindling egg supply was the wake-up call I desperately needed. During the holiday season, I made an effort to make better food choices and cut back on my alcohol intake. I also started to ease back into running.
And then I sliced my leg down to the bone in a ski accident.
The injury could’ve been so much worse – my recovery was textbook and I appear to have no lasting effects beyond a gnarly scar, for which I am incredibly thankful. I took it easy for most of January – it was during this time that a friend started talking about a nutrition program she’d been having success with and she sent me some information so I could research it in more detail. I set it aside and told myself that I’d look into it later. We went to Disney World at the end of January and in February I started running on the treadmill again. By the end of February, I noticed a small increase in energy but overall, I still felt bloated, sluggish, and blah the majority of the time. So I decided to research the program and before I could talk myself out of it, I paid the nominal fee and signed myself up to start the first week of March.
During my 7 week session, I worked with a registered dietician in an online group setting. I learned about intermittent fasting, macro-counting, and carb-cycling. I discovered that before the program, I wasn’t consuming near enough protein and that my eating habits were the main source of my energy drain. I’ve stopped eating gluten and dairy for the most part – while I do still eat cupcakes, cheese, and fresh bread on occasion, it’s far less than before. I started limiting my alcohol intake to mainly the weekends and decreased my sugar intake drastically. After the initial ‘carb-flu’, I started to feel amazing. My energy went through the roof and my workouts increased in both intensity and frequency. And as a result, I started to see changes – mentally and physically.
I finished my group session at the end of April. I’ve continued to incorporate some of the principles I’ve learned into my everyday life and at this point, it does feel like a lifestyle change. My initial goal for starting a nutrition program was to feel better and perhaps even lose the handful of pounds necessary to move me out of the overweight category. While I don’t obsess over the number of the scale, I’d be lying if said that I wasn’t happy to lose the extra 15 pounds I’d been carrying the last couple of years. I am not skinny, nor do I aim to be. I don’t plan on losing any more weight – my focus now is building more muscle. I am significantly healthier than I was last summer. My resting heart rate is lower, my running stamina has increased tenfold, and my strength has improved greatly.
Earlier this year, I turned 37 and got my groove back. I am back to feeling great. And I couldn’t be happier.