So without trying to offend those that I love the most, yet make it clear why I am the way I am...I am going to attempt to tell you about my journey to health consciousness.
I am 27, and for the better part of my childhood, teenage years and adulthood I have ALWAYS struggled with my weight, but have never really been hugely overweight (maybe 20-25 pounds or so). I have real fears about being overweight, fears about not liking what I see in the mirror and fears that others won't accept me. These fears may sound silly to you, but they are so real to me.
So let's start with my childhood...because obviously that's where I SHOULD start. And family, please remember this is not to offend..I just want to share here. I grew up in a family where my mom traveled quite frequently when I was a small child. She had a job that required her to be away often and my dad, grandparents and various neighbors helped to get me to school, daycare, etc. My memory gets fuzzy from time to time, but I remember my aunt often babysat me as a small child and then, when I hit school age, I went to daycare and the neighbor's house before and after school. By the 2nd grade I was a "Latchkey" kid and was deemed mature and responsible enough to let myself in and out of the house. I would come home from school and hang out for and hour or 2 before mom and dad would come home. If it was dad, he would pop a hot dog in the microwave for me or sometimes fix a sandwich. If mom and dad were both home, we might make Hamburger Helper, tacos, chicken...mom always had something up her sleeve for dinner. It wasn't what we would eat, but WHEN with her.
Throughout my childhood, my parents, grandparents, neighbors and family allowed me to drink soda, Kool-Aid and pretty much eat whatever I wanted including cookies, peanut-butter and jelly, mac and cheese, etc. I had few rules, if any, when it came to food and drinks. My parents just weren't the kind of parents that cracked down on what I ate, when or how much. I was also spoiled by my grandparents, particularly my mom's parents, and if I wanted candy, soda or cookies, it was available and was rarely withheld. I was not the kind of kid that heard the word "no" very often especially when it came to food.
I remember weekends at my grandparents house where my grandma would make scalloped potatoes and ham, pot roast with veggies, homemade bread, potato salad, etc. My grandpa loved to BBQ and would make burgers and hot dogs on the grill while my cousins and I would play for hours in the pool. My aunts, uncles, mom and grandfather would smoke and chat about the family business--and I always felt right at home with them--cigarette smoke and all! We had great weekends together. Tons of fun and tons of family.
I had a wonderful, blessed childhood with many memories of my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and parents. I have memories that some children never have and never know. I do not consider my childhood to be bad at all, but it was just not something that trained me to think about my health. Let's face it, I was not a skinny child. I was chubby and round. All of my cousins were thin and lanky. I was the fat kid. (Here's where my parents would probably disagree--but it's not about what they saw and more about how I felt).
By about the 2nd grade, my family life took a bit of a turn. My brother was born and my parents were quite busy trying to stay sane. He was a blessing, but a ball of energy. I would go and stay with my grandparents over the weekends and our big family would get together here and there. Then, in about 3rd grade my cousins moved to California (my aunt and uncle got a divorce) and things just changed. My parents continued to raise my brother and me and we had struggles in our own little house. My parents would argue here and there and I remember by mom and dad's tension. My parent's relationship began to change, my mom began to go to an all women's gym by the time I was in middle school, and my dad worked and would watch my brother while my mom and I went to the gym. My mom loved the gym and she and I would go for hours. It was great for her.
At the gym is where she began to try to kick the smoking habit and change her health and the health of our family. She would bring me to the gym and I LOVED it. I learned to lift weights properly, took aerobics classes and ran miles by the time I was 15. Working out with my mom was awesome! I was super fit and I had abs of steel in middle school. So after a few years of working out regularly, befriending some awesome trainers and learning how to eat right, I was HOOKED! My immediate family sort of changed our ways of eating. Great, right? Well...
Throughout all of this time my parent's marriage was sort of strained, my grandfather's health was declining, due to cancer. Eventually, my parents separated when I was in high school and my grandfather passed away. Throughout this time, I always went to the gym, ate what I wanted and burned calories when I could. My group of friends and I would walk to the nearest fast food place for lunch and I wouldn't think twice. I was also a cheerleader at the time and very active, so eating particularly healthy didn't really occur to me for most of high school. By the time I was a senior in high school, I had quit cheering and had maintained my KFC, Taco Bell, fast food diet and it caught up with me on occasion but never really enough to make much of a noticeable difference. My clothes would be snug here and there and I generally felt uncomfortable, but I never gained more than about 10 or 15 pounds. I would think about how I felt and I would just work out to compensate. I worked at a Mexican Food restaurant to make matters worse...even then, I still maintained a pretty decent figure and worked out regularly. At that time, food never entered into the equation...even though I knew how I SHOULD have been eating--I learned all about that at the gym with mom.
By the end of high school, my mom had moved to California and I moved in with my grandmother to keep her company. My grandmother cooked frequently and I had many favorites! But all of that good, home-cooking managed to go straight to my thighs and would constantly have me thinking about workouts and eating. It was a struggle to get back to the body I had when I worked out and ate right. I lived with grandma for a little while and then went to ASU where I lived in the dorms. I made Easy Mac and noodles and ate pasta frequently. This was not good. I never gained more than that same 10 or 15 pounds that I had always fluctuated between and I just continued to work out to fit in my clothes. I began to learn what I could and couldn't eat to fit in my clothes and I figured out more protein and less starchy carbs seemed to help.
Throughout college, I would fluctuate around with my weight and I did up until January 2008. By then, I lived with my best friend Jenny and I just kept seeing the numbers increase. I weighed myself one day and that scale stared back at me 147 pounds (I am 5'1 and 147 pounds is not something good on such a small person). I had to make a change and I wanted to make a change! FAST! I joined a program that was geared toward weight loss. I won't say the name here because it really doesn't matter, but it managed to get me back down to 120-125 pounds quickly (about 6 months). I lost the weight and the program really focused on eating less sugar and focused more on eating lean meats and veggies. It was TOTALLY what I needed.
Since then, I have been more CONSCIOUS about the foods I put in my body. I know if I eat cookies, cupcakes and pizza that I will have a problem. I know I hate STRUGGLING with diet and exercise, but it's not so much of a struggle when I KNOW how to eat now. I know what my body needs and I try to limit the extras whenever possible. I splurge, I feel guilty for a second, and then I know that I have to tools and the committment to health to make smart decisions and get back on track.
I know my 20 pound weight struggle really isn't considered to be much to those with 50 or even 100 pounds to lose, but to me it is and was EVERYTHING. To me, looking good, feeling good and eating well are important and they always will be. I enjoy cooking fish, veggies, chicken and eating fresh things because they make me FEEL better. I don't go to fast food restaurants, but probably a handful of times each year and when I do, I rarely order the worst options. I have began cooking at home and eating at home whenever possible. I enjoy having friends over to cook for and I love to get outside and be active. To me eating is a time of decision making. I can decide to eat something fried and suffer the consequences or eat something healthy and reap the benefits. Life is all about the decisions we make and the first, most important decisions, should be about what we put in our bodies.
With that being said, I am far from a perfect! I am soooo totally far from perfect! I have lots of work to do and lots to maintain. I am continually trying to maintain consciousness when it comes to eating and exercising. I would love to be carefree in that department, but I am not. I am constantly thinking about food, when to eat, when to wait to eat and what to eat, how much to eat...the list goes on and on. It is a struggle in my head, although it may not look like a struggle on the outside.
So for those of you with issues about your weight and those of you who make judgments about people and their weight, I think its a healthy step to look back at your past. Look and see how you learned to eat, what brought you to your current place and reach out for help to make a change. It's a lot easier to live life feeling good than it is to live life feeling terrible.
I would love to share some more of my tips and tricks to eating healthy with those who are interested. Those closest to me know that I still eat cookies and crave sugar, but outside of that...I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to easy, quick and healthy options and I am always willing to share!
Thanks for letting me BLAB and as always, CHEERS TO LIFE!