Building New Habits: My Story
Updated: Feb 12, 2020
Growing up, I was always one of the tall and skinny kids. I played a season of just about every sport, but never really enjoyed any specific physical activities. My mom tried to make sure I ate healthily but I was a stubborn, picky eater, which led me to eat mostly refined carbohydrates like mac and cheese, pasta and toast, some meats, fruits, very few vegetables, and lots of processed snack foods. Due to several circumstances in my life, I became an independent adult at age 16, which put me in charge of my activity level and diet before I had formed skills which supported a healthy lifestyle. I couldn’t cook anything more than grilled cheese and pasta! At this point, there still weren’t any physical activities I found appealing enough to stick to either. Luckily, I had tall and skinny genetics on my side and was able to continue eating a pretty horrible diet while barely exercising, without seeing many changes in my body.
However, eventually these habits created a skinny-fat body. I had no knowledge that lifting weights and building muscle would give me the “toned” look I envied in other women. Skinny models in magazines and on TV were what I thought health looked like. Sometime during my undergraduate years at TCU, I developed a disordered relationship with food and exercise. Like a lot of women, I think my behaviors grew out of needing to feel a sense of control over something. At a low point, my diet consisted of less than 1,000 calories per day while simultaneously performing hours of cardio. My lowest weight was 125 pounds at five foot nine. I valued myself solely by what I looked like and how I “ranked” in comparison to other women.
The semester after graduating college in 2012, I started using Instagram. Fitness models were becoming common and I followed many accounts that posted photos of their fit bodies, accompanied by captions about self-love and acceptance. This content helped me build awareness of my inner dialogue and realize that I had unconsciously developed very poor self-esteem, problems with food, and unhelpful exercise habits. Seeing women with bodies I thought were beautiful, who spoke about their habits, finally educated me. SURPRISE, lifting weights was the answer to looking like I wanted! So, I started researching strength training exercises and asked my boyfriend at the time to show me some things in the gym. I also started educating myself about proper nutrition to build muscle and began trying to teach myself how to cook. (Not sure if you all know but it’s all trial and error in the kitchen. No one’s good at cooking until they try, fail, and try again)!
After graduating, I worked a part time internship and had a lot of free time since I no longer had to devote hours to studying. During this time, I absolutely fell in love with lifting weights. (Cooking took a lot longer)! Strength training was the first real hobby I had. During workouts, my anxious mind was distracted, as I was forced to focus on the movements, and training allowed me an escape I didn’t know I needed. Not only that, but it was cool to see myself get stronger! I was doing things I never thought I could or would want to do. Tracking my lifts and seeing the numbers increase gave me something tangible to focus on, outside of how low I could get my weight. I had found something productive to do that allowed me to step out of the constant comparison to others and focus on becoming a better version of ME. By the way, it wasn’t always easy. I failed many times and slipped back into old habits and thought patterns more times than I can count. But I kept going.
I’ll forever be grateful for that time period, because it completely changed me as a person. Not only did I fall in love with the gym and a healthy lifestyle, I started learning self-love. I respected myself more. My experience motivated me to change career paths from the social services work I thought I wanted to do, to helping people through fitness. In 2013 I earned my first personal training certification and since then, I’ve been determined to figure out how to help other people discover the same fulfillment I’ve found through living an active and health-centered lifestyle.
My hope in sharing my experience is that someone will read my story and find the courage to change their own habits. You don’t have to keep doing what you’ve always done; you CAN make changes. Your self-talk, belief systems, career path, and relationships are all up for grabs. My advice is to take inventory of your thoughts, actions, habits, and relationships. The very first step to making changes is building awareness around your current state. Become aware of the stories you’re telling yourself. Do you tell yourself you can’t? Or that you aren’t worthy? Are you surrounded by people with poor lifestyles that hold you back from being healthier? Or are you surrounded by positive and supportive friends and family?
I’m not here to preach or to convince anyone that strength training is the only way to be healthy. There’s a huge variety of lifestyle habits that support health and wellness. The larger point is, we only get one of these meat sacks to carry us through life. It is immeasurably important that you value and take good care of it. You are worthy and you deserve to feel good on the inside and to look good on the outside. I wish you luck in your health and fitness journey. But you don’t need luck, you’ve got this!
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