My 15 Year (and counting) Fitness Journey

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about my roundabout fitness journey — from athlete to 50lbs overweight and sedentary to healthy, happy, and strong now. Fitness was such an enormous part of my life for so long, but dropped it like a bad habitonce I got to college. It’s not that I didn’t still love exercise, but rather that I packed on lots of weight and felt uncomfortable working out both physically and mentally. I also am going to go ahead and blame the cold, wretched Maine winters for zapping my previous morning workout habits.

I grew up always moving and running and climbing trees and skiing, so getting involved in sports was kind of a no brainer for me. Nonetheless, I’m eternally grateful that my parents encouraged me to try out for a softball teamin third grade, thus giving me a push in the right direction. I played softball and basketball from 3rd grade – 8th grade, and somewhere around 6th grade I also started playing on a second basketball team in an AAU league. Then, I added a second softball team (summer travel team) to the mix in 7th grade. Bless my parents’ hearts for carting me around to four different leagues!

2001 – 2002: Freshman year of high school. I played field hockey, basketball, and softball for my school and was doing TONS of cardio. We had to run a lot especially in field hockey, and I used to run once every weekend to, per our coach’s orders. Mind you, I was eating like a real jerk at this time but was able to get away with it because of how active I was. This will be a common theme throughout my high school years, so buckle up for some gnarly eats.

2002-2003: Sophomore year of high school. Still playing sports year round, only this is when I was introduced to partying. *SIGH* I would drink every so often, but the real partying (and the true start of my fitness/non-fitness journey) started in…

2003 – 2004: Junior year of high school. I’m not sure when it happened, but I fell into the crew that partied hard and partied often. Mind you, growing up in Central Massachusetts doesn’t offer a bevy of things to do, so that was our default weekend activity. House parties, field parties, you name it, I did it. I was still working out a ton for the sports I played, but decided to not play basketball in the winter so I could party and snowboard with my friends. I actually forgot about this until just this very minute, and it’s something that I’m kicking myself for. I loved basketball, but allowed peer pressure to get the best of me, despite my parents best efforts to convince me that I was making a huge mistake. Instead, I started off-season strength and conditioning at Athlete’s Edge a few times a week, working with a batting coach once a week, and was putting in 5:30AM cardio sessions at the gym before school. I was jacked and performed super well that spring and summer in softball, but was partying like it was going out of style. This is also the year I discovered my favorite junk food of all time: Cosmic Brownies.

2004 – 2005: Senior year of high school. Despite my crazy high activity levels, I started slowly putting on a few pounds due to all the alcohol I was drinking and crappy food I was eating. We got a Panera Bread in town, and I would guzzle IC Caramels, get Burger King and Wendy’s on the regular, have a lumberjack breakfast at Bickford’s post-partying, and eat chicken tenders from the 99 Restaurant between two-a-day practices for field hockey. Fall of senior year was the first time I bought a calorie counting book and actively started trying to lose weight — I remember going to Barnes and Noble and getting a physical calorie book and a tiny notebook, and trying to eat 1400 calories. Recipe for disaster!

2005 -2006: Freshman year of college. Initially I was recruited by Colby College to play field hockey and softball, but long story short, I didn’t. With a serious dip in my overall activity levels, coupled with a serious increase in calorie intake (hello, delicious dining halls and unlimited food!), I started gaining the infamous freshman 15. I remember trying the South Beach diet with my roommate before her debutante ball, but all I recall is eating a lot of peanut butter for some reason. I think this is when I can first recall having binge eating episodes, which was brought on by my attempts to drastically cut calories. Dieting is at the root of nearly all binge eating (note: a great book to read if this is something you deal with is Brain Over Binge), and despite growing up with a mom who battled emotional binge eating, it never occurred to me that I was heading in that same direction.

2006 – 2007: Sophomore year of college. I don’t recall too many specifics, but know that my binge eating worsened because I lived alone in a single room in my dorm. I now know that loneliness was one of my overeating triggers, and boy did it happen in spades this year. I think I tried jogging a few times and lifting weights half-heartedly, but that’s about the extent of my physical activity at this point.

2007 – 2008: Junior year of college. I studied abroad in Chile for the fall, and walked all over the place! I also joined a gym down there and would run on the treadmill, lift weights, and take aerobics classes there. Sidenote: aerobics classes are so much fun when they’re taught solely in Spanish. Also, the music was AWESOME. But my exercise efforts were undone by eating tons of chocolate and other snacks when I felt lonely and homesick. Also, beer. And chorizo. It was basically an eating and drinking 4 month tour of Chile. When I got back to school, it was back to business as usual — drinking, partying, eating like shit, not working out, etc. Well, in my defense, I would start out the day on the right foot: scrambled egg whites with veggies, half a grapefruit, black coffee for breakfast. Lunch was usually some sort of huge salad and fruit for a snack. The wheels fell off at dinner, though. Pizza, mac and cheese, you name it, I ate it. Also late night-eating…yikes.

2008 – 2009: Senior year of college. I actually felt awesome heading into senior year because I had done Weight Watchers for the first time that summer and lost 20 lbs! I started to get a sense of healthy nutrition, portion control, and energy balance. People were noticing when I got back to school and it felt great. My motivation was high and I started working out a lot more, but unfortunately the old adage that you can’t out-train a bad diet is true.

June – December 2009: Living in Boston, back on Weight Watchers, lost the 20 lbs again (I regained it when I got back to school), and joined a gym. I started going to spin classes, doing yoga, and lifting weights 2x a week before work. At this point, I was working at Lululemon and rediscovered my love of fitness! From this point on, I was a regular workout machine. It would still take me a few years to get my eating habits under control, though. By this point, I had a grasp on healthy eating, but still battled binge eating in private. Case in point: one time, I remember ordering a whole pizza and taking it down all by myself and throwing the pizza box away to hide the evidence. I felt so sick, but also felt powerless to stop the urges. I also had a horrible falling out with my best friend that jostled me emotionally, which I tried to stuff down by overeating. I’d go to Trader Joe’s and buy “healthy snacks” but eat the entire box/bag/carton, thereby defeating the purpose. On the outside, my friends thought I was a heathy eater because I’d eat healthy in public but then cave and devour an entire bag of Doritos and a box of Cheez-Its and not even bat an eye.

2010: Moved to San Francisco and gained everything back and then some — I reached my all-time heaviest of 210 lbs and was working out super consistently (lifting, running, spinning, yoga) and walking 3 miles round trip to work every day, but still eating WAY too much. I had student loan debt, my parents couldn’t help financially, and I was so stressed with worrying about my mom’s recent cancer diagnosis. I used to buy a baguette on my walk home from work and eat it with butter in my room, all the while knowing that what I was doing was detrimental to my health, but I didn’t care. I was still drinking a lot, and while I would have healthy meals for breakfast and lunch, my binging was out of control. I met my now husband in May of 2010 when I was the heaviest ever, and we trained for and completed a half-marathon together, which was when the tide began to turn for me.

2011: I moved to New York (Jersey City, NJ to be precise) to be with Kristian in May of 2011, and our apartment complex had a nice gym. He is a runner, and I hopped on his three day a week running routine, and lifted weights two days a week. I started having smoothies for breakfast, walking a lot more, and just overall being a bit more mindful of my eating. I started a healthy living blog to document my recipes, connect with like-minded people, and document my return to a healthy lifestyle. I was weaning myself off super processed foods, but we would still buy Tombstone pizzas, weekly bagels, chips, crackers, ice cream, etc to have in the house. After I moved to NYC, my drinking and partying majorly declined, but I was still drinking socially. Without really trying, I lost around 20 lbs bringing me from 210 to 190. Also, I had my last Diet Coke on December 11 of this year (I was a HUGE Diet Coke addict!).

2012: We moved to a new apartment in Brooklyn and I started working at Chobani Greek Yogurt as a social media manager and began biking 12 miles round trip to work. I ran my second half-marathon, was going to spin 3x a week, and walking a ton still. I also began Rachel Cosgrove’s Female Body Breakthrough strength training program and followed it to the letter, and I gained noticeable muscle while losing some stubborn fat. I’ll never forget when I first joined the gym, a male trainer approached me about personal training sessions and I said no thank you, I have a training program I’m following. Three months later I saw him and he said, “Hey, whatever you’re doing, keep it up! You look great.” — as a former cardio queen, this was when I started to realize that I was missing the mark, trying to burn calories off with activity. The key to body transformation is building MUSCLE!

2013: Business as usual, still strength training three times a week, doing spin classes, biking to work, living that NYC life and walking a ton. I was gradually fine-tuning my nutrition, especially working in the food industry for a healthy brand. It was around this time that I began to (ironically) cut back on dairy, even as I was slingin’ yogurt at events across the country. Kristian proposed in September of 2013, and I began thinking about losing some more weight for good. By this point, I had gradually lost another 20 lbs, so I was hovering around 170 lbs. I started doing Weight Watchers again in December, but the online only version.

2014: I kicked my working out up a notch, increasing weights, running further (did my third 1/2 marathon in the spring), and dialing in my nutrition even more. In February, I decided to give up eating meat (had a vegan stint in college but was a junk food vegan), and I started going to Weight Watchers meetings again, which provided the accountability I needed. During that year, I got to my lowest weight of 149 lbs, but the last two months leading up to our October wedding I was doing two-a-day workout sessions — usually lifting or running in the morning and an evening spin class. On TOP of biking or walking to work! I sprained my ankle the day after Thanksgiving, which majorly set me back on running but I think was a wake up call that I was pushing my body too hard. It was this year that I realized I wanted to work in fitness industry, because I was loving creating my own workout plans, feeling the transformation in my body and mindset, and reading, watching, and listening to anything and everything I could find on health and fitness.

2015: The year I feel like I really started to figure things out! One misconception is that change happens overnight — I didn’t wake up one day and decide to just eat 90% healthy food, it gradually happened over the course of SIX YEARS. From the first time I stepped foot into Weight Watchers until 2015 I was constantly learning, adjusting, making mistakes, restarting, making more mistakes, finding the activity level that worked for me…so many microadjustments. I started working at Runner’s World magazine and was running regularly but not for the calorie burn. Instead, it was because I enjoyed it and it supplemented my weight training nicely. At this point, I was biking to work 18 miles round trip every day except when there was snow in the ground. My weight climbed to 155-160 (149 was too small for my 5’9 frame and I looked like a bobble head!), but I was four pant sizes smaller than my heaviest ever weight, and was gradually reshaping my body with strength training. I was also fully vegan by this point, and would no longer get plagued by sinus infections and chronic morning congestion. In November of 2015, I signed up for the NASM CPT self-study course, thinking that I wanted to be a part-time personal trainer as a side hustle.

2016: In May of 2016, I passed my NASM CPT exam, quit my job at Runner’s World, and we moved across the country to Santa Monica, CA — a health and fitness mecca, and the place where I really found my stride. I started building up a client base, discovered CrossFit which pushed my fitness to new heights, took up surfing, started hiking a ton, continued biking whenever I could, and taking advantage of year-long sunshine and perfect weather. My weight stayed roughly the same, but I continued losing body fat as I was putting on muscle.

2017: Lifting heavier than I ever have in my life, high-intensity conditioning instead of aimlessly running for hours every week. Began to become more aware of macronutrients and loosely tracking them to gauge how I feel/perform with different percentages. Getting into the weeds of nutrition and fitness and studying to become a Precision Nutrition L1 Nutrition Coach, became a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, and continuing to develop my own coaching skills by working with clients and small groups. Still fully plant-based and feeling great!

If you made it this far, I’m seriously impressed. This was a bit rambling at times, but I really wanted (for my own edification and to maybe help someone somewhere along their journey) to get this down in writing so you can see that serious change never happens overnight. And I’m STILL and will always be a work in progress! I didn’t go from eating Burger King every day and drinking like a fish to eating kale salads and smoothies and lifting heavy overnight, but it was little changes made gradually over FIFTEEN YEARS.

Time is going to pass all of us by anyways, so you might as well work on improving your mind, body, and life as it does.

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