Two years ago, J and I decided that we needed to make a move on our physical appearance, lest we continue to fall off the wagon, no longer noticing the figures in front of us in the mirror. We had both put on holiday weight, so we got a joint gym membership and planned to eat better every night.
It didn’t take long for me to really get into it and drop 20 pounds, putting me back down in the 120s. I was happy there, so I wrote about my journey at that point and expected that would be the end of that.
I didn’t realize then that weight loss and overall healthy living is a continuous journey. You should never stop. And no, I don’t meant that in an unhealthy, exercise-addicted way. I mean that you should always be living a life where you feel strong and damn good about yourself.
After I wrote that initial entry, I was pretty good for at least 6 more months. I didn’t exercise as frequently, but I still ate well and did get my gym on at least once a week. I maintained.
Shortly after a little break-up (which always curbs my appetite), I also found myself smack dab in the middle of a hospital room for FIVE days after I incurred a CRAZY infection post-wisdom tooth surgery. I had to undergo another surgery to drain it out, and just like that, I lost 5 more pounds because I could barely eat or drink.
This put me right at or a little below 120, which is as far as I’m comfortable going according to my BMI. If I go lower, it’s too dangerous. With that thought in mind, I got out of the hospital and immediately started eating ALL THE THINGS! I ate all of the sweets I had been missing for months because I needed to gain some cushion weight. In other words, I like having a window between me and that way-too-low BMI. I like my body to work, not suffer.
It took me about 6 months to gain the 5 pounds back. But oh, when I hit that 5 pound mark, MAN, DID MY METABOLISM SLOW DOWN! I stopped being able to eat whatever the hell I wanted without seeing it. And guess what? I wasn’t working out or eating well because I was finishing my first semester in grad school, moving into a new place, applying for jobs, trying to balance fam + bf + friends, and trying to, you know… SLEEP. That left no time for anything I wanted to do for myself, so I sacrificed taking the time to work on my body.
Right after the semester ended, I finally found a job for a nutrition program. I learned so much about the data of our food. It truly freaked me out, and I started being conscious about what I was eating again. I learned all the sneaky names of the shit ingredients they put in our food AND what the long terms I could never pronounce actually meant. I also picked up a new gym membership to put to use once they opened in September.
By the time October rolled around, I had gotten a handle on my ingesting of crap and my exercise regimen. But by October, I also finally, finally landed a teaching gig. Whew, boy.
For the first couple months, I kept going to the gym when I could and ate well. But any good teacher will tell you that you start sacrificing things for your students as you get to know them, and the easiest thing for me to sacrifice was my health plan. I started letting them come in during lunch to vent to me. I would stay up too late grading/planning and forget to pack lunch, then sleep in too long and not have time to eat breakfast. I would walk around the classroom all day, rarely sitting down. For about two months, I subsisted solely on what my students brought with them to the classroom and items from the vending machine. My body started giving me signs that nothing well was happening inside; my old health issues were returning with each pound I put back on. (Yeah, not giving your body supplement makes you gain weight, which is why I hiss at my girlfriends when they say they’re going to stop eating. It’s not healthy AND it doesn’t work.)
It probably won’t surprise you that in the middle of all this malnourishment and stress, my depression returned. It made it hard for me to do anything, especially go to the gym when I felt so anxious and sad. My SSRI kicked in about the same time my own common sense did: as much as I love what I do, I love me more.
This all culminated in February 2014. I was able to function again thanks to my medication, and I started going to the gym again. I decided to stop focusing on what I was eating until I, you know, FOUND TIME TO EAT! A month later, one of the other teachers made life 1000% easier by bringing Saka Dance into the workplace. This meant I could have more time to myself, and I would fill that time with eating instead of more grading. The papers could wait.
With my favorite combination of healthy eating and consistent, fun exercise, I finally made it back to the spot where I feel most healthy. I’d tell you the number, but frankly, it’s none of your business because you know what any person’s health journey should be about? Being the healthiest you, and not giving one damn what people think!
So, here I am. It’s two years + some change later, and I feel great. That’s not to say there weren’t ups and downs, but it was all worth it. You know why? What I notice most about the last photo doesn’t really have to do with appearance, in a vain way at least. I notice that I am happy, laughing about J and I both trying (and failing) to push each other in the freezing water. I notice that I am running, something I wasn’t able to do for years. And while I’ll never be able to do much more than sprint, at least I finally can.
I will never stop making myself healthier than I was the day before, but I am happy to say that I’m happy where I am. I feel better now than I did 10 years ago, mentally and physically. Most of the change you see is an internal one shining through to the outside, one that I will strive to maintain for the rest of my life.
My best advice to those struggling is not to give up; life’s gonna throw you weird curve balls, but you’ll eventually catch one. Read the labels on your food and steer clear of anything you can’t pronounce that isn’t a vitamin. MAKE TIME FOR YOU AND YOUR HEALTH! Most of all, make sure what you’re doing is healthy, feels good, and is for you and ONLY you.