I grew up a pretty active kid. My parents always signed my older brother Michael and I up for sports and clubs. I tried soccer, swim team, and gymnastics to name a few. While my brother always seemed to excel at sports, I seemed unable to find my niche. I did, however, stick with soccer for many years. I considered myself just “ok” at the sport. I really enjoyed the physical activity part of playing, but I had a fear of competition and suffered major anxiety from competing. Once I hit high school I decided to not even bother trying out for soccer since it made me so anxious. I often regret not facing my fears, but I guess I just was not meant to be the high school star athlete!
My parents said that if I didn’t play a sport I had to at least do something after school. So I ended up working at a pizza place (hmm, perhaps this started my pizza obsession?!). Along with working I became interested in ‘getting in shape’. I was not overweight by any means, but I began to realize my strong interest for fitness and wellness. My parents signed our family up for a YMCA membership and my fitness journey began. My good friend and I started attending aerobics classes each night after school. We tried Kickboxing, Group Cycling and Pilates. I loved them all! I also found that I was pretty good at catching on to choreography and picking up steps. Finally, something I am good at! 😉
Once I graduated high school and went off to college I vowed I would not gain the dreaded Freshman 15. I went to the Rec the very next day I had moved into my dorm room. After seeing the amazing recreation facility the university had to offer I was officially hooked and became the gym rat that I am today! During college, I also met my boyfriend Andy who was my neighbor at the time.
Group Exercise Instructor
During college I studied to become an aerobics instructor and obtained my certification through AFAA. I taught all through college, including Spinning, Kickboxing, Step, Water Aerobics, Pilates, Yoga and Turbokick. I was able to stay in great shape through out college even though I spent a lot of my time being social 😉
Along with teaching I also ran and biked several races. I love doing races for fun, as I said before I dread competition! (**Side Note: I’m also level 1 certified in YogaFit and PHI Pilates but did this after college).
Figure Competition Prep
After college I went on to Graduate School. Around this time I got really into lifting weights and reading weight lifting magazines like Oxygen. I also really wanted to do a Figure Competition. So, I decided that I would hire a coach and train and diet for my first show in April 2009.
I had never been overweight and always maintained a healthy weight for my body, so I had no experience with dieting. I pretty much ate what I wanted, but making sure to always include nutritious meals and snacks. But dieting was another world. I never restricted what I ate nor did I count calories or weigh my food. But if I wanted to get lean for a figure competition, this is what I had to do.
I started my diet in January 2009. It was strict. I ate the same exact thing for 3 weeks at a time. At first, I was able to take the emotional aspect of eating completely out. I ate purely for “fuel”. It was not so bad at first. I actually never felt hungry or ‘starving’ even though I was dieting and eating less food then I was used to. But after a few weeks I started to feel the aftermath of being on a diet. Keep in mind I was working out VERY intensely. On top of my workouts from my prep coach (1-2 workouts a day), I was teaching group fitness classes. My body was put through a lot! I also was taking diet pills, which made me feel like a complete zombie, while at the same time made my heart nearly beat out of my chest.
The Side Effects of Dieting
I discovered the body fights you when you don’t feed it enough. I started to get incredibly moody and irritable. If anyone asked about what I was eating or why, I’d get angry and defensive. I also started to be very forgetful and even forgot to go to a presentation for work. I felt very spaced out and lethargic. I wanted to stay in on weekends and go to bed at 8pm. I just had no energy to be social. Plus, I couldn’t enjoy a meal or drink with anyone, which was just no fun! I became a total hermit. My relationships suffered, especially one of the most important ones with my boyfriend, Andy. I was just not a fun person to be around!
After 6 weeks of contest dieting and losing some weight, I was over it. It was Valentine’s day to be exact. I was actually “allowed” to go out to eat. Of course I had to get plain chicken, steamed veggies and a sweet potato to eat. I began researching menus online for a place I could get those types of foods. All of a sudden I just got filled with so much anxiety that I burst into tears, ran into the living room to tell my boyfriend I was done with this crazy diet, and made myself a martini and ate a chocolate bar! It felt so good to actually make my OWN decision about what I wanted to eat and drink! I felt free!
So, I quit. I never went through with the competition. I have ZERO regrets. I don’t have “what if” thoughts at all. I actually feel like I wasted 6 weeks of my life being miserable. I weighed less than I had in years, yet I was the most unhappy I had ever been. I guess being skinnier isn’t always that great. I do feel like I had to go through that experience though to find out that it’s not the sport for me, nor the lifestyle.
It took me a while to adjust to “normal eating” again. My body “rebounded” and I had no idea what was going on. It was my first experience with “binging”. My appetite was crazy. I would eat, eat, and eat and not be full. It would be trance-like, going through box after box of cereal. I felt like a failure. How could I lose control like this? What is wrong with me?
Come to find out there was nothing wrong with me. It was the body’s response to dieting. It was desperately trying to get back to where it was comfortable. Although I know this now, it was a horrible experience. I was very depressed and felt almost lost without my strict diet. A couple of times I tried to eat like I was in prep, but I just couldn’t anymore, it would send me into binge mode again.
After about 6 weeks of a crazy binge cycle, my body seemed to normalize. I gained back the weight I lost (remember, I was never even over weight! It was pretty pointless for me to even diet). And I was able to become my normal, happy self.
After the contest prep experience my thoughts on what fitness and wellness are have really changed. Before I decided to do the contest I had really enjoyed my workouts and how I ate. Suddenly working out became a chore and eating became something I feared. This was not a “healthy” way to live. I thought that healthy meant looking perfect and to me (at the time), a perfect female body was lean and muscular with little body fat. Well, what it takes to look like that is NOT healthy and NOT attainable for long periods of time. Most women that lean do not even have a menstrual cycle, so they are unable to even have children. Does that sound healthy? No. So why the heck did I want to make that my goal? It makes NO SENSE!
A New Outlook On Health
I have come full circle and now find a healthy female body to be most attractive. A body that HAS body fat and shape. Not skin and bones. I don’t ever wish to look like a girl on the cover of a magazine because ALL of those images are photo shopped and I would bet all of those women diet strictly before the shoot to look like that. It’s just not realistic to compare yourself to that.
I hope that those of you who read my blog are inspired to be happy with who you are and with the body you were given. Being healthy is not just about what you look like. It’s not about what you eat or how much you exercise. Food and exercise are actually just a small part of life. A healthy life is so much more than that! It’s about being happy with who you are as a person and having fulfilling, loving relationships and memorable experiences that add something meaningful to your life as well as others lives’.
My Current Workout and Diet Style
I like to exercise most days of the week, doing a combination of cardio, Yoga and weight training. I teach Group Exercise classes throughout the week and definitely count that as part of my workouts. I also like to walk and run with my dogs, Sophia and Boo, most days of the week. I take rest days each week from the gym as well. You can see exactly what I do for my exercise each day in my workout log.
The way I eat is very simple: I eat anything I want. I do keep nutrition in mind and definitely eat my share of fruits, vegetables, plenty of whole grains, greek yogurt, healthy fats, and lean proteins. However, I love me some DQ blizzards, french fries, and of course pizza!
I don’t think any food should be off limits. I do, however, think that it’s important to be mindful of what you are eating to ensure you are getting a good amount of the healthy stuff so that your body feels and runs well. I love trying and creating healthy recipes that taste great, yet offer great nutritional value.
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