my health journey: the road less traveled

It’s been over a week since I posted my recent and ever-continuing health accomplishments and many of my close friends (and distant acquaintances) have asked how on earth I did it or am doing it.

My advice on this? It was and is a choice.

It’s a simple one, but the journey is not easy.

In looking back over the last four years, I was able to come up with eight “what it takes” statements that helped me get here. There were and are many more tips and tricks, which I will write on later, but for the sake of time….here goes:

  1. It takes dedication. If you want it bad enough, you will make time for it and find a way to make that happen.

    I wanted this. After viewing our family photo from Thanksgiving in 2010, I had enough. I was at a size that made me look larger than my dad. I felt lethargic, exhausted and sick all the time. I caught the common cold or some other virus easily. I felt and looked older than 25. It sucked. And it was that day, after seeing that photo, that I had enough.
    Many of the women in my family suffer from diabetes and I wanted to do everything within my God-given abilities to stop it (it ends with me) or delay it as long as possible in my life.
    My dad also has high blood pressure and according to the most recent doctor’s appointment at that time, I was dealing with it too.
    I was serious.
    It was time to make a change.
    I was ready. So, I made a plan.
    Being a learner by nature, I started reading anything and everything about weight loss, fitness, exercise and health. Basically, anything I could get my hands on – books from the local library, online blogs, health magazines, literature at the doctor’s office, etc. I eventually looked to Pinterest® for ideas.
    I highly recommend educating yourself and finding what may work for you.

 

  1. It takes courage to take those first steps and to make a change.

    My first decision was to cut out all soda and stop making bad food choices.
    That meant no more Diet Coke. No more runs to Arby’s. No more Taco-John-food-stops after work.
    No more excuses.
    Was it easy? No. It was hard, incredibly hard, but so worth it.
    Giving up fast food was easy after experiencing a bout with food poisoning. I will never look at a potato oles the same again.
    Giving up chips was easy due to the fact that the seasonings and salt have a tendency to make my tongue do crazy things. Ever hear of geographic tongue? I have it. It doesn’t hurt. Never has. It just feels uncomfortable. Why sacrifice that? The price wasn’t and isn’t worth it to me.
    Soda, on the other hand, was harder. Have you ever had one of those caffeine headaches? You know…the ones that come up when you haven’t had caffeine for days? The constant ones that seem to lag on, long after you’ve taken ibuprofen?
    Those headaches lasted the better part of two weeks before finally going away. By that time, I discovered the joy of treating myself to one small piece of dark chocolate a day and had learned how to doctor up my coffee until I got used to drinking it black. I even fell in love with green tea. All of those alternatives have caffeine without the horrifying effects of sodas. I can’t even stomach the stuff any more. Praise God!

    My second decision was to find and join a gym that I could afford.
    I got a deal at a local, full-on spa/gym for three months. I enjoyed having a locker I could keep things in and being able to go swimming after a long sweat session to cool off.
    After those three months were up, I couldn’t afford the full monthly payment and stumbled on Planet Fitness. If you have one near you, I recommend it. It’s affordable without all the hassle. At $10.00 per month, it’s good stuff.
    I was there for almost a year before God called me to Minneapolis.
    Once I got there, I joined LifeTime Fitness, where I took advantage of yoga classes, Pilates, free personal training sessions, and more.
    And nearly a year ago, I changed gyms again and now go to Snap Fitness which is closer to where I live. I make it point to crash the gym on my way home from work every day.
    By the way, if you get a free session (or a number of sessions) offered for free, take them up on it. Before going into the first one, you’ll get a chance to talk with the personal trainer about what your goals are. Mine were simple: to be healthy and get under 200 lbs.
    Most of us can’t afford trainers. They range anywhere from $40 per session/hour and up. It sucks.
    But, there’s a way you can work this to your advantage.
    During those free sessions, I asked for workout layouts and/or tips that I could run with.
    I’m naturally a self-motivator, which means I can do almost anything I set my mind to do. I think it’s a common thing for us optimists and it’s quite a nice perk. All I might need is a little direction and off I go.

    *Please note that this may not work for you. I’m simply stating what has worked for me.

 

  1. It takes self-discipline, which has to be learned.

    I didn’t get here overnight. It’s been almost four years since that Thanksgiving photo was taken. The road hasn’t been easy. A person doesn’t really understand how all parts of us – the spiritual, the physical, the mental and the emotional – are connected until they embark on a journey like this.
    I’ve read once that it takes 21 days to break a habit or create a new one.
    I disagree.
    I think it depends on the person.
    For me, it was the three-month mark when I realized that I felt off if I missed a workout or ate something I shouldn’t have (note on this…I ate more of something that I should not have had rather than the recommended serving size). I actually missed going to the gym if I didn’t go. It was amazing to have that revelation.

 

  1. It takes patience.

    Getting to the weight and size I was at did not happen overnight.
    Getting under 200 lbs. wasn’t going to happen overnight either.
    We live in a microwave, I-want-it-now society that hasn’t done us any good.
    We’ve lost the point of what it means to wait.
    The sooner we come to grips with that, the easier and better life will be.
    Learning patience isn’t easy and it takes time. There will be days when you’ll be tempted to throw in the towel.
    One word of advice on that one: don’t.
    Don’t give in.
    Keep going. Push yourself to get over that hurdle.
    Take the time to figure out what works for you. I’ve discovered that leading a healthy life doesn’t come in pretty, cookie-cutter packaging. What worked for me won’t necessarily work for you or the next person.
    I wasn’t in a rush. I had learned that if I was going to make this a lifelong goal and habit, I needed to take my time getting there.
    I’ve also learned that losing the weight I have at this rate is better for my health in the long run and the weight won’t come back.
    And if you fall off track, don’t be too hard on yourself.
    I allowed myself those days where I could splurge, just a little. I still do.
    For instance, I like Oreos™.
    Does that mean I avoid them like the plague?
    No.
    I allow myself one serving every so often. Not several days in a row nor do I eat an entire tray in one sitting. That never did me any good.
    Actually, stuffing our faces outside the recommended serving size hasn’t done any of us any good. Nor does mindlessly eating in front of the TV.
    Days where we’re feeling off on all levels come to my mind as well. I went through a season of mild depression in 2013 and I will admit that there were several weeks where I didn’t go to the gym. I slept all the time and ate very little. It was a blessing that the scale barely moved during that time.
    I refused to be hard on myself during that time. I was and am still beautiful in God’s eyes and His opinion of me is the only one that matters. I needed to take that time to heal and I had to learn to live by a standard of grace in my own life. No more being hard on myself. No more negative self-talk. Tell yourself a lie often enough and you’ll start to believe it and, in believing it, you’ll start to live that lie out.
    The negative self-talk needs to stop here.

    You are beautiful.

    You are strong.

    You can do this.

    You are loved more than you’ll ever know.

 

  1. It takes being open to being outside your comfort zone and thinking outside the box.

    I cannot emphasize this one enough. If you want change, you have to be willing to step outside the box you’ve been living in. Tips on that:

  • Be willing to be drenched in sweat. Being beautiful at the gym really doesn’t matter.
  • Challenge yourself. Change things up. All. The. Time.
    I don’t think I’ve done the same routine for weeks on end since 2011. I discovered the hard way that it works for a bit and then stops. I hit a plateau. I like to mix things up. It keeps my body guessing.
  • Ladies, don’t be afraid of lifting weights. You won’t bulk up like men do, but you will build muscle mass, which burns more calories when you’re not working out. Lifting heavy weights will work in your favor. Trust me on that one.
  • One word: Intervals. Interval training has been found to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time than going for a 45-minute run. You’ll also be burning calories long after your workout.
  • Be open to doing moves during commercial breaks or when you’re doing daily tasks (like folding the laundry or brushing your teeth). I do squats, calf raises, bicep curls with light weights and tricep-dips at my desk in between calls.
  • If the term “exercise” has a negative connotation for you, call it something else. I call it “Me Time” and I don’t cancel the appointments I’ve made with myself. 🙂

                 Find out what works for you.

 

  1. It takes strength and determination.

    I’ve been surrounded by both supporters and haters, making this journey an interesting and difficult one.
    You will be too.
    Take encouragement from those cheering you on, but do not let those positive comments consume you. That gets to be dangerous territory.
    Let the comments of those who say you’ve done enough or that you’ve taken it too far fall by the wayside.
    Those comments do not define you and that person may not understand.
    If the person telling you this is a friend or a family member, take the time to have a heart-to-heart conversation with them. Tell them why you’re doing this. Explain that this isn’t a seasonal choice. It’s a lifestyle choice. If they’re still against the changes you’ve made and are making, agree to disagree and move on. Don’t let it ruin or break that relationship. 

    I’ve explained that I don’t live my life or make my health decisions based on what the BMI chart says. I grew up on a farm and have more muscle mass than the average woman. Anyone can see that. I stand just under 5’9″ and I will never weigh 145-165. I’d have to be a walking stick for that to be a reality in my life and that’s just not a healthy goal for me. I happen to love my curves, thank you very much.
    It also helps to have your doctor on your side.
    I’m on a 50-year plan. It’ll change as I age and as the needs of my body change and I’ll make those adjustments as I go. I actually do not have a set number in mind as a goal. If God takes me there, then that’s fine. If He stops it here, that’s okay too.Does that mean that I’m not satisfied with where I am now?
    Definitely not.
    I’m more than content with where God has me…well, I’m dealing, but that’s better than fighting it or believing the lie that I need to be a certain weight or size in order to be happy. I am happy. I’m healthy. I have energy to spare. I feel great. I know that I’m loved by the King of kings. That’s what matters.
    I’m content here. I’m okay with where I’m at. Not complacent. Not dissatisfied. Not attaining for some goal that is my be-all and end-all.
    Health living is not an obsession, although it can become one. It’s a necessity.
    Healthy living is not a means to an end. It’s a means to thrive; a means to live life more fully.

 

  1. It takes accountability.

    We can only do so much on our own, but we can go further when we’re surrounded by community and held accountable.
    That is true for any aspect of life – spiritual growth, dealing with the crises of life, emotional well-being, mental stability and physical health.
    I have a friend who I met just over a year ago. She’s been on her own weight loss journey (started after mine and experienced a significant change in a short amount of time) and she knows when I’m at the gym, what my workouts consist of and is always asking me how I’m doing. She’s even threatened to drag me to a CrossFit class if I don’t make it to the gym three times a week. Scary. Kidding.
    Accountability can go a long way and it’s definitely not one-sided. We challenge each other and are not afraid to be bluntly honest (truth spoken in love and grace of course) about where we may be wrong. It’s good and it’s healthy.
    If you don’t have at least one accountability partner, consider your close group of friends.

    Is there one person you’re more comfortable sharing everything with?
    Is there one person who seems to get you or is at least willing to try?
    Is there one person that you would be okay with them getting up in your grill?

    Accountability isn’t a half-assed process (pardon the French). You can’t ride the fence on this one.
    You’re either in or you’re out. Not both. Don’t be afraid of being challenged or getting uncomfortable. Change occurs outside of your comfort zone.

    Perhaps you’re the type that needs a workout partner, someone who will meet you at the gym. For some, this helps in getting them there. You wouldn’t cancel a coffee date with a friend, would you? 
    I actually prefer to workout alone. I get most of my thinking done during that time. I converse with God — most of the time it’s one-sided, but there is comfort in knowing that He hears me. I could share any number of truths that have been revealed to me during that time. It’s also one way I can worship my Savior, using the body He gave me in this way. This is simply my preference, not the rule .

 

  1. It’s a commitment made to God, not just to yourself.

    It wasn’t until I read through and did a study on Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst. The book isn’t just for those who struggle with emotional eating or weight loss. It’s for anyone who needs a heart change on a deeper level, What do you run to when life gets hard? Or when it doesn’t go the way your planned? For me, that was watching any number of movies to numb out the rest of the world and choosing to be lazy so I wouldn’t have to do anything. I’m learning to lean on God and run to Him when the going gets tough.
    I mentioned earlier how this choice isn’t cookie-cutter nor is there a magic formula that will instantly change how you look and feel. How true it is. Finding out what works for you is a lot like looking at your fingerprints. You were made by a God who cares deeply for you. He knows how your body works and what will make an impact on your health for the better and what won’t.
    Invite Him along on your journey. He’ll enable you to do more than you ever could on your own power and He’ll carry you through any obstacle you face, even on your toughest days. Trust Him. Lean into that truth.
    I’ve discovered a huge change in how I approach my health since I invited Him along on my journey and boy, has it been epic!

Let me be clear: Jesus isn’t a magic formula or a wish-granting factory. He’s a Person. He is Love and it’s a relationship with Him that will get you through life if you believe He is who He says He is and make the choice to follow Him. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus or are curious as to what that even means, all I can say is “Come and see.” My words and personal experience should only serve as an encouragement and are proof of what He’s done and is doing in my life, but the decision to follow Him is ultimately yours to make. We get the choice. There is so much beauty in that.

If you have any questions, send me a message. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or express doubts. It’s okay to have them. You can find out more here, here and here. He won’t leave you where you are. He loves you too much to do that and He won’t allow you won’t walk this road alone. His body, the church, will surround you, support you and walk with you. I’m personally dedicated to discipleship, accountability, spiritual growth, pursuing God with all that I am, loving others, health, godly self-care and living life to its fullest.

Until next time…

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