Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Healthy Living Journey (so far)

As far as I know, I haven't written an entry about my healthy living journey: where I used to be, where I've been, and where I am now.  Here goes!

First of all, the healthy living blog community is ENORMOUS and I have learned so much from being here.  I am so grateful, so amazed, and so happy to be a part of it.  Like most people, I didn't get here overnight.

When I think of what I used to eat when I was younger I shudder because it is very different compared to how I eat now.  When we went out to dinner, it was chicken fingers all the way.  After school snacks: think Dunkaroos, Surge, Squeezits, and those cheese and cracker packs that had the red wand. 

Disgusting.  I recall many a night where after a delicious and nutritious dinner, I would eat a ton of cookies or a big bowl of ice cream.

Here's the thing: my mother is the best cook I know.  We ate healthy dinners.  However, she did buy me pretty much whatever I wanted at the grocery.  One thing that I am so thankful for is that she did not criticize my food choices; she let me eat what I wanted and hence I did not grow up having this nagging voice in my head telling me to put the cookie down.  I feel like I've read over and over again about girls with eating disorders who grew up constantly criticized by their mothers. 

In terms of my body and athletics, I've always been petite.  I recall going through a brief growth spurt (note the word BRIEF - I am only 5'3'') in 5th-6th grade and maybe grew another inch or two after that.  Through lower and middle school, I did not have the athletic confidence that I have today.  I was hesitant and sometimes shy.  In middle school I played field hockey for my school and did a YMCA league, but I wasn't very aggressive.

High School
My somewhat unhealthy eating habits extended to high school.  If we had chicken nuggets, tater tots, and cookies for lunch I was all over it.  Clearly Canadians (sparking, fruity drink) made a comeback and I loved buying those.  I do remember bringing fruit to school for snacks, but if they didn't fill me up, then I went to the vending machine for something sugary and processed.  Senior year I remember wanting to do the Smart Start Cereal diet = eat Smart Start for two meals a day.  Smart Start is so sugary and not really "smart" at all.  Obviously I hadn't started reading my ingredients list yet.

I was still thin, but I didn't consider myself skinny.  Throughout high school I played field hockey, was on the crew team for 3 years, and then did indoor and outdoor track for one year.  When I reflect on high school sports, which were SO much fun, I realize that I tried hard, but I didn't push myself.  On the field hockey team I was known to be more of a goofball than anything.

I was signed up to play hockey for my school, but decided not to as I wanted to get acclimated to college life.  That "acclimation" turned out to involve getting drunk three nights a week, eating a ton, and being somewhat lazy.  Second semester I had a short break around lunch a couple of times a week so I would just grab lunch from my room: peanut butter & jelly and goldfish crackers.  I did eat fruits and veggies, but I just ate way more than I should.  My thought process was this: while I'm at the cafeteria I need to eat a lot so I don't get hungry later on in the evening.  I started running for exercise and made it to the gym maybe 3 times a week.  Despite it all, I still gained the Freshman 15 and had to buy new pants.  During Christmas break, I remember seeing my grandfather and the first thing he told me was, "You're fat."  It's a painful memory that I still have, and I really wasn't fat, but I was getting chubby and it showed.

Sophomore year was when the tables started to turn.  My eating was more controlled and I didn't feel like I had to stuff myself just so I wouldn't eat later on.  For an extended period of time I ate the same lunch every day: A turkey sandwich, carrots, and cottage cheese.  Although I wouldn't eat exactly like that now, I was keeping my portions in control and was sincerely trying to make the effort to eat healthier.  I also started running more and running with friends.  I started playing intramural soccer.  I started running races!  By second semester sophomore year, I was slim and trim and feeling better than I had in a long time.

First semester junior year I was abroad in Spain, and I kept fit by TONS of walking, running, spinning, and pilates.  I had a turning point during my study abroad and that had to do with FOOD.  No more was I the chicken-fingers-french fries-no-I-won't-try-anything-new Rachel.  I became the ok-let's-expand-our-horizons Rachel.  Spain isn't as inundated with fast food/junk food as the United States is which certainly helped my new attitude.  In addition, I lived with a host family and I decided that I would at least try everything they gave me!  We had lentil soup a lot and I've loved lentils ever since!

Second semester junior year and senior year I lived in an apartment off campus and constantly ran, swam laps, played tennis, and intramural soccer.  I started eating veggie burgers and more vegetables and fruits, but I'd still go out with friends and get (a lot of) margaritas once a week.  Overall I wasn't as fit as I had been sophomore year, but I felt OK about myself.

After college I continued to run, lift weights occasionally, swim, etc.  When I moved home in September of 2007, my running dramatically improved and I decided I would run the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon in the spring of 2008.  It turned out to be a GREAT experience for me.  In January of 2008 I tried Bikram yoga for the first time and was hooked.  For the rest of 2008 and 2009 I ran a fair number of races, did Bikram, plus all the other activities I had done in the past.  By summer of 2009 I was the thinnest I had been in a long time, and my confidence was through the roof!

Notice I said that the thinner I was/am, the more confident I am.  This mindset still holds true today.  I'm not sure if that's something that will ever change about me.  I'm not sure if that's a thought that I want to change.  It doesn't seem fair to myself that I need to be thin to be confident, and that my appearance should be the deciding factor of how I feel about myself.  I could write another long entry about this topic, but let's continue...

In January of 2010 I started my blog because I wanted to document my training for running races and document my journey to a sprint triathlon.  Within the first week, I connected with some blogs and bloggers who had (and still have) a great impact on me.  I've discovered foods/recipes that I would have never heard of.  I read the blogs of people who care about exercise just as much as I do.  To be a part of a community like this is pretty awesome.

For those of you who have read my blog for a while, you know that 2011 has had perhaps more downs  than ups.  However, things have really turned around in the past two months and I am feeling very energized and optimistic about the present and future.  My running is going well, I'm loving spinning classes, I'm feeling and looking stronger thanks to consistent weight training, and I'm absolutely loving Vinyasa yoga classes at the studio.

All in all, I have to say that I've come a LONG way since childhood.  It's been an educational, exciting,  and fun journey so far and I'm thankful for every minute.  Thank you!

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