I haven’t always been a healthy person. In fact, you could say my life now is a complete 180 from what it used to be. I used to smoke, drink excessively and eat crap. I was a vegetarian from the age of 14, but had no concept of what a healthy vegetarian lifestyle looked like. My weight usually fluctuated 10-15 lbs. No one has ever called me “overweight” but I always got the sense that I looked like a could lose a few. More than that, I was never happy with the way I looked. Never.
So what changed? I can tell you it didn’t happen all at once. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to turn my life around. Honestly, after being a “troubled teen,” I think I was just ready to grow up and move on. I made a vow to quit smoking by my 20th birthday. I accomplished that with a month to go and haven’t touched a cigarette since. I gave up most alcohol when I realized I was too young to have a beer belly. Alcohol is now a treat rather than a necessity.
I’d visited the gym on and off since high school, but never stuck to it longer than a couple months. I’d managed to still be somewhat active by walking everywhere, often up to 90 minutes a day. But that changed once I got a car. As soon as the walking stopped, the pounds started to creep up.
Then there was the food. Contrary to popular belief, being a vegetarian or vegan does not make you thin. And it doesn’t make you healthy. I think because I became a vegetarian at such a young age, I never took the time to learn how to get the nutrients I needed. When people asked me where I got my protein, I would tell them I ate a lot of peanut butter, as if that was enough. I’m not a vegetarian anymore, but still eat like one. My body responds really well to a huge piece of chicken, but I still love the taste of tofu!
I credit my 25 lb weight loss to making two decisions. One was to count calories. Honestly, before I started doing this, I had no idea what an acceptable calorie intake was. Once I figured out how much I needed to be eating each day to lose 1 lb a week, I was blown away by where my calories were coming from. I was eating 700 each morning for breakfast with a giant bowl of granola and soy milk. Now that I know what a balanced meal looks like, I’m giving intuitive eating a try. Surprisingly, it’s been a pretty easy transition for me. I eat plenty of fresh, minimally processed food. I’ve been able to maintain my weight loss so far without scrutinizing every calorie that enters my mouth.
My second decision was to get in 30 minutes of activity every day. By this point, I was scared to start back at the gym only to quit again. I wanted to keep it up this time. So I started out with activities I genuinely enjoyed doing. At the time, it was mostly 30 minutes of pilates or swimming laps. Eventually, I wanted more though. The pounds were coming off, I was energetic from my new healthy diet, and I was ready to be more active. So I moved some of my activity to the gym, trying out all the machines. It really just grew from there. Before I knew it, I was doing a serious weight lifting program, making plans for a triathlon and in the best shape of my life.
I really just want to share this story because I think I’m a good example of how a series of small changes can equal one big change. If you met me five years ago, you would be shocked to hear I’m now training for a triathlon. I wish I could say my main motivator was to be a healthy person, but I really just desired the ability to look in the mirror and like what I see. I realized I didn’t want to waste one more minute hating myself. I can’t say I get up every morning and think I look awesome. But, how I look and feel is no longer at the forefront of my mind. It is so freeing to go out in public and not obsess about how chubby I think I look. Instead, I spend a lot more time enjoying life as it should be. Calling myself a triathlete will be a pretty sweet bonus though.