Disclaimer: I am NOT a health expert! This is just my personal experience with health and fitness.
This story begins with my decision to remove myself from social media. Read more about my reasons and the effects being off social media has had on my life since 2018 on Maggie’s blog. While I did feel better about myself without having the constant temptation to compare myself to others, I still wasn’t happy.
In August of 2019, I did Lisa TerKeurst’s 21-Day Made to Crave devotional on the Bible App. I wish I could say that was when I started prioritizing heath and fitness, but as I learned in the devotional, YOU have to be ready to make the change and be motivated by more than just losing weight or looking a certain way.
In September of 2019, I chaperoned a field trip, and while in line for a ride at an amusement park with two of the mothers also chaperoning, one of them reached out, touched my stomach, and asked if my husband and I were expecting. I responded, “No. I’m just fat.” Then she gave me breastfeeding advice.
I knew I had gained weight over the last six or seven years because duh, everyone does after high school, but I wasn’t really aware of how bad it had gotten. Frankly, I didn’t have record of exactly how much I weighed back then and if my clothes from then hadn’t stopped fitting, I still would’ve gotten rid of them because they went out of style. Little did I know, I was well on my way to putting on 50 extra pounds.
The weekend after that field trip, my husband and I stopped by my parents’ house before going to the lake with our friends. For some reason, we pulled out the old wooden clarinet my mom and I both played growing up, and someone took a video of me playing it. That video is the first time I remember seeing myself and not just thinking I’m fat because that’s what society has conditioned me to think but truly knowing that I had gained extra weight. I didn’t look good; see for yourself…
With that realization in mind, I still didn’t change anything. In the past, I had tried the Whole 30 and actually lost 10 pounds, and I also tried counting calories in June of 2019, lost 10 pounds again, but then my husband and I went on an anniversary trip and those mindful habits of eating and exercising went away. I did the Made to Crave devotional as a cry to God knowing that if I wanted to change myself, I needed to let Him in and have His way in my life.
Right around Christmas time, I was indulging in the YouTube watching habit I’ve picked up since ditching my own personal social media, and a video of a girl’s journey teaching herself to dance came across my feed. After watching the video, I remember thinking what if I did this? I think my intentions then were more what if I taught myself to actually dance, but quickly I realized I didn’t have the resources to do that (space in my house lol); however, I knew I enjoyed dancing and that it was something that could keep me active.
What I liked most about the girl’s video, though, was the visible progress. I’ve always heard you should take progress pictures instead of focus on numbers when you begin your fitness journey, but I’d never committed to that. That same day, I decided to create an album called “Body Image” on my phone, and I added every picture I had of myself in a swimsuit beginning in 2008 (several of these are in the slideshow above).
As I was going through old photos, I was sad because I remember always thinking I was “big” and “fat” growing up. “Small” and “skinny” were never words people used to describe me, mostly because I’m tall, but I perceived those words as good, so if I couldn’t identify with those, then I obviously wasn’t good enough. There’s one specific photo from 2011 where I’m sitting on the boat with my mom and brother wearing a bikini, and I know then I looked at that and saw fat rolls, but looking at it as I was making my Body Image album, I would’ve given anything to have that body back.
When I finished going through my photos, immediately I could see a progression, and when I began lacking photos (around 2017), I understood that I stopped taking photos of myself then because I subconsciously knew I wasn’t happy with how I looked.
On Saturday, December 29, 2019, I made the decision to use the Apple Watch Series 3 I wore on my wrist every day already and set the goal to actually close my 30-minute exercise ring each day. In the 280 days since, I’ve missed the goal twice: once because I was in my friend’s wedding and once because I’m a teacher and this fall has been #STRESSFUL!!!
Because it was winter and I live in the Midwest, the first workouts I did were really old-school dance workouts on YouTube. I then found Jenny Ford and bought an aerobic step deck, which was great until this happened…
After being two months into my fitness journey, I was devastated to have to take a break, so I actually didn’t really take a break. The healing process for my ankle probably took longer because of this, but I didn’t want to give up the momentum I’d gained in exercising. To give my ankle a break, I often did arm workouts with HASFit on YouTube. And don’t worry, my medical massage therapist I see once a month says that my ankles are now stronger than ever.
In my commitment to live a healthier life in 2020, I also decided to be more mindful about meal size and composition, so actually a couple days before I rolled my ankle, I started counting calories again with the LoseIt! App since the previous summer I did make progress.
I paid for a subscription to unlock all of the features in LoseIt!, so counting calories is still something I’m continuing today. I read an article in the app that explained counting calories is not so much about restricting or perfectly meeting a number but instead about being mindful of what you’re eating. Counting calories is impossible to do 100% accurately, but knowing that the ice cream you eat every night is 200 calories makes you think about whether or not you can budget it in for the day. I’m proud to say I have NOT deprived myself of ANY ice cream the past nine months!
Additionally, my husband and I began challenging ourself to intermittent fasting during the week and eating just one meal around 3:00-4:00 PM when we got home from work. I’m no expert, but there are many benefits to fasting, so before deciding to do it yourself, please do your research. Typically, our one meal would be from HelloFresh, which has helped me with portioning and making healthier choices. I would highly recommend it for young, busy people without children who love good food!
As a teacher, my lunch breaks are typically 20-minutes and I don’t have time to really sit during the day, so a “treat” I would bring myself to curb my cravings for snacks at work were Clear American Sparkling Waters. The strawberry flavor got me hooked, but they have SO many different flavors that I’m obsessed with to this day. They’re 0 calories, but honestly, they’re so good that I know they have to have something bad in them. I’m avoiding doing the research because I love them so much!
On March 13, my world turned upside down, as did everyone else’s, when my school district went on spring break and suddenly announced we would not be coming back because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe wholeheartedly that God used the pandemic in my life to give me back time for myself. I’ve written before about how wrapped up and overwhelmed I’ve been in my adult life, and while I’ve taken steps to take care of myself already, the time God gave me during quarantine was a gift I didn’t even know I needed.
Before the stay-at-home order was issued in my state, my sister-in-law to-be introduced me to some fun Zumba workouts on YouTube that have since been taken down, and we would also play tennis with my husband and brother. Being active suddenly became something I craved.
Though my goal of exercise started at just 30 minutes a day, as soon as the weather was above 50 degrees, I began waking up at 6:00 AM every day, running 2.4 miles and then walking my dogs the same route, averaging about 1.5 exercise hours a day, all before I had to be online to “teach” at 9:00 AM.
Cheering in high school gave me a love for running because I had a really tough coach who made us do it every practice. She actually passed away from cancer in May of 2019, and on my runs this summer, I found myself first thanking her for instilling a love for running in me but then ultimately thanking God for giving me a body able to move like that.
Though I’ve been at my goal weight for a couple weeks now, I’ve been putting off writing this post because I want it to bring glory to God instead of saying “Look at me! Look at me!” The biggest thing I’ve learned on my journey is that what matters at the end of the day is how I see myself, and how I see myself should always be aligned with how God sees me or else my eyes are NOT healthy!
God loves me SO much that He sent His only Son to die on the cross for my sins so that I might know Him and have eternal life with Him in heaven (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8), and God loves me that much no matter how much I weigh or where I’m at on my fitness journey. God met me where I was, this time as someone with such an unhealthy view of herself and full of heavy darkness, and as long as I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10, Romans 10:13), I am saved and can walk in the light.
When you believe in the Gospel, God takes away the extra weight you’re carrying, which is the burden of your sins, and I found that when I believe in myself and who God says I am, the extra weight I’ve been carrying was taken as well. My story is proof, however, that it’s not enough just to believe; you have to actually live it out. While I want to glorify God through my fitness journey, I did put in the work myself to be in the body I’m in today.
While I believe comparison is the thief of joy (2 Corinthians 10:12 or Teddy Roosevelt), I also believe that if something doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” While I look at lot like a former version of myself, what I did mentally and physically to get back to that physical version of myself makes all the difference. I can fit in my prom dresses, but I’m a more confident, secure person than the girl who wore them as a sophomore and senior in high school.
As confident as I feel about myself now, I know that my fitness journey is far from over and I hope that I’ve made it a lasting lifestyle. I’ve had to buy a whole new wardrobe — I’m down three pants sizes — which has been an investment and a challenge not being able to try things on in-store because of COVID-19. At the beginning of June, my husband took me on a date and we went shopping at the outlet mall for the first time since I’d lost a significant amount of weight. At Francesca’s the dressing rooms were still open, and I was shocked at the sizes I was fitting into — I haven’t been able to shop at that store in YEARS!
Buying new clothes has been expensive but a fun, positive experience in my fitness journey (shop my old closet on Mercari). However, when faced with stress or uncertainty, I still want to fill myself with food. Just last week, my district announced they’re moving from virtual school to a hybrid setting, and immediately I wanted to stuff my face. I’m still learning how to replace my desire for food with my desire for God; my friend actually recommended a book the other day called Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction.
Being back at work, I’m learning to balance my fitness routine (I’ve ditched my runs in favor of walking the dogs and playing Just Dance — shout out to Mom and Dad for giving me the old family Wii!) with the demands of my job as a teacher and with my new commitment to grad school. I do find that my afternoon walk helps me decompress and destress from my day, and if I skip it, my husband and I both notice because I’m not very nice otherwise.
As I mentioned before, I’m struggling with vanity as well. During quarantine especially, I started thinking about getting back on social media for some human connection, but I worried that with my transformation I would make it about “Look at me! Look at me!” My husband has caught me a handful of times upset that so-and-so didn’t notice that I’d lost weight. The last people saw of me on the internet were my wedding photos, and I’m actually 20 pounds smaller now than I was when I got married two years ago. I’m proud of myself and there’s no shame in that, but I shouldn’t be looking for compliments.
While I’m not looking for compliments, I have received them, and I’m so grateful for all of the supportive people in my life, especially my husband and two of my best friends, Maggie and Marija. They’ve kept me accountable for the fuel I’m putting into my body, got me into yoga classes pre-pandemic, and competed with me on our Apple Watches.
Today, though, I received the sweetest compliment yet. While I was initially stressed about a hybrid schedule, I’ve been overjoyed to have students back in my classroom for the first time in six months — especially my yearbook girls I have for the fourth year now. When I walked into class today, one of them said, “Mrs. Brown, I don’t know how to say this, but you look… smaller?” For the first time in my life, I heard the word I so desperately wanted to describe me when I was a child; though isn’t it ironic that back then I really was small comparatively? I laughed and was able to share my story with a group of girls who mean so much to me. That’s what it’s all about.
Blog followers, you mean so much to me as well. Thank you for supporting me! I hope I can inspire you to challenge yourself to make a positive change in your life too.