Welcome to the first of a mini-series on this blog. No, this is not technically writing-related, but fitness is a huge part of my life, and a lot of the time, those annoying little plot points figure themselves out while I’m in the middle of working out. Thus, I wanted to start sharing my journey to a healthy, fitter me.
Why now? Well, I’ve hit a pretty huge milestone, one that I never thought was going to be possible. Since the beginning of March, when all of this started, I’ve lost 20lbs. But to really understand how big of a deal this is, we have to go back a little.
I’ve never been a small person. I was a pretty chubby kid. In middle school, I used to wear men’s XL shirts and big baggy pants to hide. Man, I had these tan cargo shorts that went to my knees that I used to wear every single year to Warped Tour. When I started wearing them, probably in the seventh grade, they were way too big, and I had to hold them up with a studded belt. But as I got into high school, it got to the point where there was no way I could comfortably wear them to an all-day festival. I wore a lot of men’s clothes, mostly band t-shirts, and my shoes were a size 10 by the time I got to high school.
In elementary and middle school, I played soccer, which I still really love as a sport now (it’s probably the only one I can watch live and not get bored), and which I really loved while I was playing. I hated running, though, so I was always on defense, and I was always out of breath. I started playing softball at the tail end of middle school, and again, because I hated running, I was usually out in the outfield. Once I realized that I really enjoyed being a catcher, I got behind the plate. If it hadn’t been for my powerful swing, I probably would have been in the lower end of the batter’s list, but I was usually up fourth. I didn’t play long into high school, and I definitely didn’t join the school’s team. That would mean more practices than usual and people who expected me to run at a decent clip. I was substantially overweight at that point, and I couldn’t fathom trying to get in shape.
In high school, though, I was starting to get out of the all-black fashion and wanted to wear cuter things. I couldn’t shop in the regular sections, though. Junior’s jeans only just fit me, and the shirts were out of the question. I had to shop in the plus section on the women’s side, and as a teenager, that’s a pretty low blow. Still, I didn’t really do anything about it.
As college started to approach, I swore that I was not going to gain the typical freshman 15. I was going to start going to the gym, and I was going to try to eat kind of well. Suffice to say, that’s hard when you’re on your own for the first time. The food store was only about a ten-minute walk downtown, and I have an undying love for Cheerios as a snack. And I’m not talking like a small half bowl, but three bowls, easy, every night while watching TV. It doesn’t sound bad, I know, because Cheerios, right? But think of all those carbs, and oh man. There was also a Snack Bar below the cafeteria across the street from my dorm, and they had these killer quesadillas that we used to get probably every other Saturday night after dinner.
Going into my sophomore year of college, I’d just recently broken up with a long-time boyfriend, and I wasn’t in the best of places. I decided that I wanted to do something about my body, so I scheduled a meeting with the director down at the university’s gym, and she helped me figure out a fitness routine. I went fairly regularly, but I was still eating absolute crap. We got ice cream all the time, I drank juice like it was going out of style, and I was still on my Cheerios kick. When it wasn’t Cheerios, it was an entire thing of popcorn or getting Buncha Crunch at the movies or oh god, like, four cream puffs whenever they had them.
I found yoga that year. I had been floating without any sense of direction spiritually for some time by then. When I was 12, I stopped believing in God, and I couldn’t wrap my head around Christianity anymore. It just wasn’t for me. For 7 years, there had just been this gaping hole in my life. When I needed faith, I didn’t know where to turn. After the break-up, I decided to start researching other types of faith, and I stumbled across Buddhism. I spent days reading everything I could get my hands on until I finally discovered yoga, and just like that, everything slotted together. I started practicing sun salutations every day. I convinced myself to get up early before classes to meditate for a half hour and then practice yoga for a half hour. I watched videos on YouTube, I started saving “goal” poses in a folder, and it really felt like I’d found something. 7 years later, it still feels like I’ve found something. Yoga kept me afloat in college when I started not going to the gym anymore.
When I graduated college, I had all these grand plans. I was going to read more. I was going to work on my original novels. I was going to workout more. I was going to become the best version of myself.
The exact opposite happened. I rarely read. I only wrote fanfiction. I practiced yoga infrequently, if at all. I ate terribly, and I gained weight. The other day, this picture popped up on my memories in Facebook:
July 1, 2014.
I honestly don’t know how much I weighed there, but I do know that I was at my heaviest. Probably a little over 200lbs, which I’d always told myself I wouldn’t let happen. And while I am all for body positivity, let me make something very clear. I was, and still am, overweight. I was so unhealthy four years ago. I was in a really bad place with my body, and no amount of self love changes the fact that I was setting myself up for an early death and/or health problems. I am not saying that you have to be stick thin, but that ^^^ is not good.
It was hard for me to walk up stairs. I would wake up late, around 11AM, sit around watching TV until it was time to go to work, and then lounge at a register all night. I’d eat pasta late at night. None of my clothes fit. I didn’t want to buy new jeans and admit that mine didn’t fit, so I just wore yoga pants all the time. Something had to change.
I really started to get back into yoga that year. I started participating in challenges on Instagram. At first, it was just a few, but as the year progressed, I was doing five or six at the same time. Often, I would just put on some yoga pants and pose for the picture, but sometimes, I would feel a little guilty about doing that and actually roll out my mat to practice. The winter of 2014, I got it into my head that maybe I wanted to be a teacher. Maybe this was something I could really grow to enjoy. At this point, though I’d been practicing for two years, I had never taken a studio class. I’d gone to a few classes offered at the university, but they were in a stuffy room and I didn’t really enjoy the teacher, so I decided letting a real live person lead me wasn’t my cup of tea.
However, in January of 2015, I started researching places around me that were offering teacher trainings. I started following more yoga practitioners on Instagram. I let it overwhelm my life. I was enamored with it in a way I’d never before liked something. (Spoiler: I still am.) I searched for pretty much all of January, but nothing looked right. Nothing spoke to me. So, I dropped the search for a little bit, and a few months later, picked it back up again. The same studios were still offering a training, but there was a new one, one I hadn’t seen before, one that looked like this was a brand new program.
It had purple walls and a giant Ganesh mandala painted onto one of the walls. Color me curious.
There was a video from the owner of the studio. She was blonde, and I think she had a little pink in her hair. She was so bubbly and excited about the teacher training. She seemed to be as genuinely in love with the practice as I was, so I made a decision. I was going to go to a studio class. They had a chakra series coming up–5 weeks dedicated to the 7 chakras. I signed up for all 5 weeks, and told myself that I would make a decision at the end of the first class. I would know if this studio was the place where I was meant to learn.
Suffice to say, the decision was made within about 30 seconds. I was nervous as all hell. I got there super early, and then sat in my car thinking this was probably just about the dumbest thing I’d ever decided to do. I couldn’t even order my own food at restaurants, but somehow I was going to magically learn how to teach real live people who were watching me? In that moment, I didn’t care about how much I weighed, what I looked like, or how much I liked yoga. I wanted to go home.
Instead, I did one of the hardest things of my life, and I walked through the front door.
Between Jenny’s welcoming hug and the purple walls, I was sold. The practice was divine, but really, it was the space and Jenny that drew me in. I could see myself in a place like this, where there were crystals on the windowsills and Ganesh watching over me and this beautiful soul guiding me. Jenny was like a light in the darkness.
I could do this.
That night, I went home and I officially applied for the teacher training. There wasn’t an application online yet because Jenny was still putting it together, so I had to email her to ask if I could apply. Turns out, I was the first one for her first ever training. I put down my deposit, and then, a few months later, I paid the rest. That was it. I was going to be a teacher.
Halfway through 2015, having already done the scariest thing ever, I decided that I wanted to run a 5k. I hadn’t been able to stick it out at a gym, and even though I had weights at home, I wasn’t interested. Maybe running would do it.
(If you follow literally any of my social medias, you know where this is going.)
Holy hell, I hate running.
I hate it so much, and I am never going to like it. I know because I tried it again this year, three years later, and yeah, it’s still the literal worst thing in the world. But I did it. I found a couch to 5k app, and I followed the program for six weeks. It’s a really neat app, too, so I would definitely recommend it if running’s something you want to try. I trained for six weeks, ran the 5k, and then promptly never ran again except for one bizarre day in March 2016 where I thought, what the heck, why not.
And then, something big happened.
The 5k was in June. July 4th was coming up, and I wanted to wear something cute and festive. I have this navy blue polka dot dress that I just adore. I put it on, realized it was pretty big, and then a picture popped up on my Facebook memories. I was shocked. This was that dress? Here’s the transformation picture I posted that day:
Two years apart. The first one was taken on July 4, 2013, the second on July 4, 2015. And I looked good. I couldn’t stop staring at the picture. I remembered that original one, and how much I’d hated it. But now? Had I really lost that much weight? Had I really weighed that much?
Something started happening in my brain, and though it would take a full three years to really settle in, that’s when it started.
2015 continued to be an amazing year. I was on a cloud. Not even the looming prospect of a potluck meeting with my fellow trainees in January could knock me down. I was so happy. And then? That first meeting was amazing. I had so much fun even though I was terrified. There were 18 of us in total, and I loved every single one of them immediately. This was it. I had found my path in life.
The next year is one I’ve talked about a lot online. YTT is the best thing that ever happened to me. Yoga is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m not afraid in front of my students. It’s where I belong. 2016 was a good year. In February, I quit my job in retail and started working at an office. In July, after a weekend about the business of yoga, I emailed Jenny and asked her if I could audition for the studio. The next week, I was teaching there. In August, I graduated as a 200 RYT, and I started getting paid for doing something I love. Winter came and went, and 2017 wandered into view.
A lot of things happened. I’ll probably look back on 2017 in ten years, just like I do with 2007 now, and quietly laugh at it. 2007 was a bad year for me. 2017 was right up there with it.
And along with all of the emotional bullshit that I was going through, I started gaining weight again. I just didn’t care. My yoga practice started to suffer. I’d moved into my own apartment in February 2017, and I thought having more space would convince me to practice more. It did, on rare occasions, but mostly, I tried and failed to love fitness again. I tried HIIT, and for a while, I really enjoyed it. I thought about buying a treadmill to run again. I went to yoga sometimes, but not really. I ate gelato pretty much every night. I always had frozen tortellinis on hand. Cereal every morning. Still with the damn juice. All of my hard work, undone. Just like that.
Here is a thing I believe so fiercely in: you have to love the thing you’re doing to keep doing it.
I tried running, and hated it.
I tried HIIT, and while I enjoyed it, it was pretty boring, and I started making excuses not to do it.
I tried lifting weights, and just found it repetitive.
Here is also a thing I believe so fiercely in: losing weight is not actually about exercising. Building muscle is, but if you want to lose weight, you need to cut the crap and scale way back on your calories.
And that’s just a fact. Here is a foolproof plan for losing weight:
It took me so long to realize this.
In January 2018, I had it with myself. I hadn’t touched a scale in years, so I’m not sure how much I weighed, but I know it was close to, or at least, 200lbs. Seven years ago, I discovered the ancient practice of yoga, and my life started to change. Three years ago, I saw a picture of myself two years apart and realized how much damage I was doing to my body. So, in January, I gave up. I gave up being unhealthy. I gave up feeling sorry for myself. I gave up blaming anyone but myself. Because the only person who actually gives a shit if you work your ass into the ground? You. That’s it. If you don’t do that last rep, no one cares. You’re not cheating anyone but yourself.
I cut the gelato out of my life. I stopped eating pasta. I started buying chicken and freezing it so that it was always readily available. I stocked up on vegetables. I started hard-boiling eggs for snacks. I stopped buying frozen meals, like oh my god, don’t do this to yourself. Frozen meals are evil. MEAL PREP MEAL PREP MEAL PREP. I found something that I liked, something that was inexpensive and easy to make, and I started eating it every day. Which, if I’m being honest, is definitely not the way to go if you like to shake things up with your food. But I don’t enjoy cooking, and I don’t mind eating the same thing every day, so that worked for me. I never looked at a box of freaking Cheerios again. Juice? Bye. The aisles in food stores? Bye. Chocolate? Bye.
I’m not exaggerating at all. I was done. It was the first time in my life that I had finally said enough is enough and meant it. I’m over this. I’m not going to sit here every day and eat my way into an early grave. I started practicing yoga more. I ate chicken and vegetables every night. I drank water, water, and some more water.
Now, there’s a part in this story, what comes next, that I’ve never actually talked about online. I’ve mentioned that I’m doing it, and I tag it in my posts, but I’ve never actually explained how I got to where I am right now.
In December of 2011, I found yoga.
In February of 2018, I found calisthenics.
What is calisthenics? My favorite way of describing it is gymnastics for normal people.
Have you ever gone onto YouTube, intending to just watch a little mindless Buzzfeed, and then suddenly you’ve clicked on a video on the right hand side and three hours goes by without you even realizing? Don’t lie, you’ve fallen down a YouTube rabbit hole at least once in your life. Yeah, I fell down one for, like, two and a half weeks straight. I can’t tell you how I got to where I got, but somehow, I clicked on a video that was a vlog of a gymnast in the UK who had won the bronze Olympic medal in 2016. He was in his early 20s, pretty good looking, and his vlogs were really interesting. They were about 10 minutes usually, and I watched one after another for weeks after work. My roommates thought I was crazy. My mom indulged my new interest like she always does, kindly and with a little “yes honey”.
In these videos, Nile Wilson was promoting his new company, Body Bible. In some of the older ones, right before they launched it, he would show trailers for it, snippets of what their 4 week shred was going to look like, and I was hooked. A lot of the things he was talking about where things I already did in yoga, just taken to the next level. A lot of it were the aspects of HIIT that I really liked, too, like high knee running or plank jacks. The workouts were always different, and always kept me on my feet.
Toward the end of February, I spent $50 on the 4 week shred program, and the first day of March, I started following it.
It literally felt like I was finding yoga again for the first time.
There was, however, one last thing before things finally started to change. I had to kick the cereal, and I was so sad to see it go. But at the beginning of March 2018, I weighed 195lbs.
175lbs. 20lbs in just over 4 months.
Over the last 4 months, I’ve started following fitness enthusiasts on Instagram, but not the kind you’d expect. People like John David Glaude, who keeps it real when it comes to weight loss. People like Jordan from jordanshrinks, who laments about missing food sometimes because that’s a real struggle. Rachel Brathen, who I’ve actually been following for years, but who continues to be, to this day, one of my biggest inspirations.
In March, I decided to set two goal weights. I wanted to be 170 before Erin’s wedding in August, and then I wanted to finally hit 150, which has been a farfetched dream of mine for a long time. Do you know the last time I was 175, though? Because I don’t. Middle school, maybe? It’s not my goal weight, but it’s a huge milestone. And for me, it’s 100% because I found yoga, started eating better, and then found calisthenics, in that order. Yoga keeps me flexible and strong, calisthenics builds muscle, and not eating those damn carbs every night keeps helping me lose weight.
Now, we’ve talked about food throughout this, and while I am not a nutritionist, here’s what I eat every day. Yes, literally every day.
Breakfast: ONE slice of oatnut toast with probably more peanut butter than is necessary and a whole banana
Mid-day snack: 3 strips of cooked turkey bacon
Lunch: 1 cup of cooked basmati white rice, a Chobani of my choosing (though I no longer eat the flip ones, only the different berry ones), and an apple
Afternoon snack: currently, a hard-boiled egg, though this has flip-flopped between that and cottage cheese
Dinner: more often than not, chicken and vegetables
The things I’ve taken away from my food struggles are this:
- For the love of all things good, stop drinking juice.
- CEREAL IS BAD FOR YOU EVEN IF IT’S THE HEALTHY KIND
- Bagels? Sorry, bye.
- Like, honestly, just stop eating carbs after lunch. Don’t do it.
- You don’t need ice cream. You’re only going to miss it for a very short window of time.
- Boxed/canned/frozen/bagged food is bad. Unless it’s frozen vegetables without sauce added on, just walk away.
- I’m serious, put the juice back.
- If you’re going to drink a smoothie, that’s it for your meal, so make sure you pack it with protein.
- Holy protein is so important. You need it. (Vegetarian? Eat some damn tofu.)
- YOU HAVE TO EAT. Nothing less than 1200 calories a day, or you will not lose weight.
- It’s okay to go out to eat. Just don’t eat the whole portion, and try to get the healthier options.
- You don’t need gelato, either. Or chocolate. Or processed sugar. Your body is not hardwired to like it, so put it back.
- I don’t care what it is–orange juice, apple juice, pomegranate juice, the literal nectar of the gods, Mamma Chia (how I miss you so)–if it’s not water, don’t drink it.
- Ketchup is the enemy.
- Make sure there are always green things on your dinner plate.
This is not a definitive list, and definitely nowhere close to everything, but these are the things that have helped me a lot in the last four months. The last time I had ice cream was my birthday in March, and I honestly don’t miss it at all. Chocolate is okay on occasion, but I always feel gross after eating it. I’ll be honest, I do miss juice, but I am never going to waste calories on that again. Bagels are the best, fight me.
For fitness, here’s what I do every day:
Monday: Body Bible (cardio shred ftw) & teaching one hour of yoga
Tuesday: teaching two hours of yoga
Wednesday: Body Bible (arms and I’m dead)
Thursday: Body Bible (leg day what’s good)
Friday: Body Bible (coooooore)
Saturday: Body Bible (full-body workout) & teaching two hours of yoga (one regular and one super power)
Sunday: one hour of yoga (sometimes)
Sometimes, I’ll sneak an hour of yoga onto another day. And realistically, I do skip workouts sometimes. I was not about to do my full-body workout on Saturday while it was 95 degrees out after already teaching for two hours. In April, I’d taken a break from Body Bible and was just doing yoga and then running when I decided to do a 5k again. Eventually, I’d like to try Nile’s six-week handstand program, and sometimes I jump back into his month-long core challenge. For me, calisthenics was the next thing that helped push me further. I love it. I’ll recommend it to everyone. It’s hard work, but I feel so good after, and that’s what I needed. Every other exercise just wasn’t doing it for me, and when I finally found one that I could fall in love with, there was no turning back. Several people kept telling me that it would take 6-8 weeks to really enjoy running, and that’s just not something I want to do. I promise you, if I don’t like it from the get-go, I am definitely not going to like it in two months. But calisthenics? I loved it immediately, and that’s why I’m still doing it four months later.
And yes, working out 6, sometimes 7, days a week is insane, but the yoga I do on Sundays is very relaxing, and I enjoy calisthenics so freaking much that I don’t really notice it on the other days. I’m also not saying that calisthenics is for everyone, but I am saying that you need to find something that you love unconditionally and do that. For me, that’s yoga and calisthenics. Maybe it’s running for you. Maybe it’s rock climbing. Maybe it’s boxing. But whatever it is, make sure you love it. Make sure it brings you a heck ton of joy.
The rest is just eating well and sleeping, at minimum, eight hours a night.
And the result?