Rediscovering My Purpose

I've been hitting the gym regularly for maybe the past month. It’s not like I wasn’t before, but I could tell my heart wasn’t into my workouts. I enjoyed my walks around the neighborhood instead of lifting weights, no matter how light they were.

Last November, I was at the gym one evening doing squats. I was used to a little knee pain every now and then but that night, one rep on the smith machine caused immense knee pain to the point where I had trouble sitting down or keeping it bent for over two weeks. I couldn’t run, do any leg exercises or high impact cardio. At that point I decided to take some time away from the gym. The injury probably came at a good time anyway because I was starting to get burnt out from my routine. What I didn’t expect were the mental consequences I’d suffer that would last longer than the injury. I fell back into old, poor eating habits and didn’t remain as active as before, other than daily walks around the neighborhood. Other personal events contributed to this as well.

I’ve been on this health and fitness journey of mine for a few years now and it’s had its ups and downs. Right now, I’m working my way back up, redefining my goals and what I want to achieve. I’m discovering different aspects of my relationship with food and how to continue to express my creativity in the kitchen. I knew this was a lifestyle change when I decided a few years ago to take better care of myself and knew this path would take me in all kinds of directions.

Even with a little weight gain and diverting from a path that used to work for me, I appreciate the lessons this year has taught me. Several things happened this year that I didn’t expect, both good and bad. I’ve been tested emotionally and mentally, but I’m still here and therefore stronger than ever. It’s easy to look at past photos of myself at my heaviest and photos at my smallest and be disappointed. But I’m not, oddly. I look at those photos and admire the hard work and dedication I put into improving myself back then. It’s inspired me to do it again, but differently this time. I know my old methods won’t work for me now because I don’t enjoy them as much as I used to. For instance, I first started losing weight by running every day. Sometimes I’d run a mile, sometimes I’d run 5 miles. It didn’t matter how much I did as long as my feet met the pavement. I ran races as often as I could too. After about a year or two, I switched into weightlifting, which really kicked things into gear for me.

I don’t run as often anymore. I mostly jog with my puppy and participate in a race every now and then – hey, it’s fun to get free t-shirts and medals. Weightlifting is my preferred way of getting exercise. I’m back to doing squats with no or very little knee pain and I’m switching up my routine every 4 weeks to prevent boredom. Also, I work out with a trainer every week on various things like sprints, kickboxing or free weights.

With that said, the real battle is in the kitchen. I’m not going to see the progress I want if I don’t get my act together in there. Planning has always been my biggest struggle. So I’ve been planning meals ahead of time, which is saving me a lot of money during the week. I’m also testing recipes to satisfy my biggest cravings like chocolate. I’ve tested a black bean brownie recipe several times, which I’ll post after I test it again with another alternative sweetener. Why go to the café to get a brownie loaded with sugar and fat when I can make healthier ones at home? I’m paying close attention to how certain foods make me feel. Also, taking it one meal at a time, one day at time, helps me stay on track.

Finally, I wouldn’t be where I am without my awesome support system. I was talking with a friend recently who understands exactly what it’s like to lose your way and feel the regression of your goals. She knows that I want to compete in a bikini competition like she has one day and she told me I should continue to work towards that goal. For now, I’m focusing on controlling my diet but I’ll keep the goal of competing in a contest in mind. She’s been behind me every step of the way over the last few years. We’ve watched our lives and bodies change and because of that, we share that bond. Surrounding myself with friends who strive to be their healthiest selves is encouraging. It’s up to me to do the work to get where I want to be, but it’s great to know I have friends cheer for me along the way. The gallery below shows me heaviest, smallest and current size, from left to right. In the first picture was taken about 4-5 years ago. I was a size 14-16. The second picture was taken last summer when I was a size 6. The last picture was taken about a month ago at a race. I'm a size 10 now, so in the middle between my biggest and smallest sizes. I wonder how I'll look a year from now, or even how I'll look when this year ends? 

Health just isn’t about having the best body in the room, it’s about having one you love. It’s about taking care of oneself emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s about self, honest and unconditional love. No progress can be made without loving oneself first. That’s doesn’t mean to settle into complacency, but to love oneself enough to make the necessary changes to live a better life and the one you feel you deserve.