Fitness Freak: Navigating the Ups and Downs of Attempting a Healthy Living

Today is the first guest post by Julia from ILoveYouMoreThanIceCream. She is a friend and fellow blogger who is sharing some of her thoughts on her personal journey to and through fitness. She is a remarkable mom and writer who is bringing a unique perspective to the Soapbox today. From my experience of a fat guy on a bike I would have never thought that fitness would be a struggle for my thin as rails friend. She is actually the body type I jealously mutter under my breath about as I struggle through a workout in the gym, wishing to have what appears to be an effortless grasp of fitness. It is heartening for me to hear that she is struggling and succeeding in her quest as it shows that we all have challenges but we can all overcome them as well. Please welcome her and if we are nice maybe we can get her to write some more for the site! – Big Joe

I can’t seem to get enough. Its become an addiction. It feels like a drug. If I skip for even one day, I don’t feel right. Twenty minutes is only ok when I’ve gotten to it late in the afternoon, or time is short because of extra events in the day, but on the stipulation that I go to extremes and follow Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper or Violet Zaki. Half an hour is passable, and I can find peace in that duration…but it just doesn’t feel like a genuine session unless I devote 4o minutes or more. I am becoming a fitness freak. I like this about me.

Me, who was one of the least athletic kids ever. Me, who detested gym class (and still on occasion has nightmares about it). Me, who having always battled depression slumped around more often than not, ate things I wouldn’t even think of now, had no idea of portion control, in a household where my parent was not attempting to become more fit herself so that I could emulate that example earlier on.

That kid grew up into a health-conscious woman who now realizes as an adult that not only was the encouragement missing for me to get active, try a sport, be mindful of what I put into my body, but I never believed in myself enough to picture fitting the description of an active, physically fit teen. But then, I am a Virgo, the most health-conscious Zodiac of all. So, maybe it was predestined that I would eventually make the decision to turn things around.

I wouldn’t say now that I was ever fat — my adolescent self would debate this with you for hours though — but truthfully, my weight did fluctuate dramatically at times, causing me to be a little chunky one year, then a little gaunt in the face the next. This was especially true in my photo I.D. for my senior year of high school. I remember being taken off guard a little by how thin my face appeared when I received it. I can tell you it wasn’t from exercise, or eating right. I don’t remember what it was. It could have been that I had been deep in a summer depression, and that it was the sort that makes you lose interest in food. I hope it was walking, as did do a lot of that when I was younger. And yes, this is a form of exercise, but I never did it for that reason. Instead, it was how I got around. Maybe the rollercoaster was my subconscious attempting to communicate. Maybe I was keeping it a secret from myself that I wanted to be healthier.

It wasn’t until after college and relocating from Pennsylvania to Maryland that at 135 pounds, I allowed myself to fully realize my wish to start working on getting fit. I’m only 5 feet tall, so my tiny stature seemed to truly show all of what I weighed. It was kind of kismet that the apartment complex where my husband and I lived had a small, but efficiently functional exercise room for residents to use. It became my catalyst for living healthier. I even quit smoking somewhere in my 20s. But the exercise room gets no credit for this. That was all me + the realization that I wanted to be a mother eventually, but I didn’t want my child(ren) exposed to carcinogens every day, which then equated to the cold turkey approach.

Fast forward most of a decade. Because my motivation and commitment to exercise increased before my pregnancy, post-birth I was chomping at the bit to get any kind of body back. When my doctor confirmed that I could resume working out, I was off to the races. I want to be fanciful and say that it was like riding a bike. I think that I would be lying to you. Really, it took awhile to get back into a regular, steady schedule. It certainly took another year for me to not feel like a cartoonish hippo, both with stubborn baby fat clinging to my core and a major lack of balance. But I got there in stages, and with each stage my focus ramped up as well as the personal importance of investing the time in myself.

I wish that I could tell you I’m stacked like a super model now. I’m totally not. What I am though is fitter than I ever was previously in life, and always striving toward the next stage. After all, we’ve all got our flaws, temptations and problem areas. Mine are relentless beasts at times. And life presents setbacks, challenges. Like over this past summer…

Since I am the farthest thing from a morning person, I don’t know how I finessed myself into the temporary habit of rising at 6 a.m. via the alarm, but this passed spring and summer I did so most days of the week in order to get my workout in before breakfast, before my daughter woke, before the day got noisy and off-track the way some days manage to become. Forcing myself to do this was a character-building event and it stepped up my game. Even on “off” days where I just slept in because I needed to, I was still laying down consecutive workouts, albeit late afternoon.

I had five more pounds that I wanted to shed, but when I hit a plateau and the scale seemed to stare me down at a dead stop, I realized that I was at a not so bad spot, and that I was ok with the numbers it listed. Just like life though, when I stopped thinking about it, and kept up exercising those very five pounds disappeared, and I dropped a pant size. Impressive as that may sound, I was bordering between two sizes anyhow.

The downside to dropping a size though, is that some of the stuff that fit normally before suddenly fit too loose. I know. Poor me, needing a belt with all my bottoms. Please present your smallest violins. Here’s the thing though: I knew that I put in the work required to get to that point, so I also knew I deserved those kind of results. Once you reach a goal that you thought you couldn’t, you fear losing what you attained.

I bought some new clothing. Some cute boyfriend trousers Old Navy was promoting for spring. Four pairs in four different colors. I thought I looked as slender as Keri Russell in them. (The Americans had recently had a season finale, hence that actress being at the forefront of my comparisons then.) Of course, temperatures rose and any type of pants were ditched for two months, give or take, while shorts took the stage.

Because of my love for food, I did not want to get cocky and start thinking that I suddenly had a physique that could take in whatever the heck I please — ice cream for example — but then still hold at a decent fitness level without further work. Afterall, one of the fitness experts I follow, Chris Freytag, reminds people that a poor diet can not be out-trained.

Lo! Somewhere in those fast, warm weeks, I must have done exactly that, gotten cocky — 6 pounds were back, loud and proud. My boyfriend trousers were suddenly snug. I felt like a sausage trying to be a person.

Even though I kept reminding myself that my self worth does not hinge upon a number, I worried. Worried that no matter how much or well I continued to exercise, no matter how much I turned things around, that I wouldn’t be able to get off what I gained back. Worse, worried that the digits would increase before I could make necessary changes in attitude and diet.

I’ve been told that I worry too much. It’s probably true. As pregnancy did for my workouts, so did this challenge — made me try harder and remember why I even exercise so frequently to begin with. To hopefully be on track for a healthy old age. To set a solid example for my daughter. For lasting brain cognition. To fit into my own clothing, as well as anything new that I fancy to try on in stores. To eliminate stress. To regulate depression. And yes, to be as much of a hot mama as I can…but getting skinny is nothing without all of the above.

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About julia

Sometime during my childhood, I made a conscious decision that instead of being a doctor, I would be a writer. I've always loved words, books, reading, and so this became part of who I am. In spite of the writing experiences I have had (more limited than I can truly be proud of), I haven't yet written a book. Blogging is meant as practice toward that goal, as well as getting things from my mind down in words for possible discussion with others who might be having similar thoughts and life experiences. I hope to make positive connections with other parents, spouses, people.
This entry was posted in fitness, life skills, Uncategorized, Weight Loss and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fitness Freak: Navigating the Ups and Downs of Attempting a Healthy Living

  1. yceblu says:

    Julia, you made me feel your journey and cheer your success. Good work.

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