This is my story of many of the ups and downs that have come about as I have worked towards being healthy and capable.
For as long as I can remember I have been overweight, and/or obese. For most of my childhood, I didn’t think much about it except when cardio or pull ups were involved. I played outside with my friends when I was younger. Any sport that had a ball in it, we were trying to play.
One memory that should have been a sign that strength was in my future was high school PE. We had a weight training week and I was chosen to demo the dumbbell bench press. I had never lifted weights before but grabbed the 20s and started doing the reps. The gym teacher wanted me to get to failure and after about 30 reps she stopped me. I remember feeling so good after that… like I could do anything. I didn’t think much about that after the semester of PE was over. The realization that I was not anywhere near my potential for health and fitness came about during my second year of college (2010).
I was taking one of the required PE courses and right before I dove into the teaching courses my program scheduled.. I thought this class would be a lay up… fitness walking. I thought to myself, “I’m a good walker. Piece of cake!” It turned out that it was harder than I thought and it sparked something in me that I didn’t want to struggle doing “regular” activities. It didn’t hit me like a ton of bricks, but it did become a nagging in the back of my head. At first, I started off going to the university gym. I would hop on an elliptical for 30 minutes and then leave. It was enough to have weight starting to come off and I had made a, relatively, easy change for myself.
From there, I started to eat less, thinking that if I eat less during the day, I could save calories for my favorite place to go, Taco Bell. It was cheap, and you got a lot of food. This ended up with me losing weight but also not always feeling my best. Hunger is a beast and when it’s consistent it becomes more than just a nagging in the back of your head. At this point, I was in my first year of teaching and was keeping track of everything I ate in a journal. I spent a lot of time writing things down and measuring food out.
I kept up with this to lose mostly 80 pounds and got into obstacle course racing with some friends and the rest of my 5th grade team. This was about 4 years after my health journey began. Even with all the activity I was doing, I kept a bit of hunger around. At this point, I was still eating small amounts of food during the day and would have larger meals at night. I was super active with recess, and going to train, so that I would still have Taco Bell on a regular basis and keep losing weight like I had been. (It’s been almost 10 years and I can still remember my order. A crunchwrap big box meal with a baja blast.)
When I went from being in the classroom to a full time grad student, my daily activity decreased tremendously. I would spend most of my days sitting in an office reading articles or sitting in class talking about the articles. I was eating the same amount of food that I was before but doing way less activity. I had seen a video from MegSquats about being a powerlifter and decided to try my hand at getting strong. I ended up putting on some weight but my strength was skyrocketing. Even with all those years, the image of myself never changed so at least with getting strong there was an objective way to know something was working.
At this point (Fall of 2017), I won 3 free training sessions with a trainer from the university gym. This turned out to be the best point in my journey. The support that I got from my coach, and now friend, was beyond what I imagined. To this day, I attribute so much of my success to her support. It wasn’t just about the coaching she provided; after a lot of reflecting, I found that it was because she treated me like a fit person. I didn’t see myself that way at that point and the cognitive dissonance that it brought to me was unexpected.
The transition to seeing myself as a person capable of doing many things was a huge turning point for me. Food (with a lot of work) became less restrictive and more in moderation. I still have/ had a huge appetite and I’m not sure if it will ever go away but it’s manageable and I don’t feel bad about it. When a race or fitness challenge comes up, I no longer say “I wish I were ready for that” but instead I say, “how can I do that?” There isn’t a definitive end to a health journey but there was a metamorphosis from getting to the point of being capable to figuring out what to do with all the capability I realized that I had.