My story began with a simple decision almost 14 years ago that had a profound impact on my life, in ways I would have never imagined.
I remember that day vividly. What was supposed to be a day of fun, laughter, and memories turned into a day of tears, sadness, and shame.
I was only 43 years old, and I was morbidly obese, prediabetic, at high risk of heart disease, with no energy, no self-esteem, a withering career, and an unhealthy marriage, all of which left me with no confidence and on the verge of depression. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
I was a chronic dieter and experienced disordered eating most of my life. At an all-time low point in my life, it was evident I had to get off the roller coaster of fad diets and embrace a completely new lifestyle.
I needed to take self-responsibility. So, what if it took me a year to do it? I had my whole life ahead of me and, more importantly, I had a 13-year-old son who needed his mother. I wanted to watch him grow into a man, to see him get married, to be here for my grandchildren someday. I wanted to be able to walk without my knees aching. I wanted to have energy. I wanted to feel more confident and comfortable in my own skin. I wanted vibrancy and health. I wanted a REAL life.
Over the next two years, I persevered and released the 130 pounds that was weighing me down for over 35 years. What set out to be an intention to gain control of my health, resulted in someone who was barely surviving releasing 130 pounds to an award-winning fitness athlete, half-marathoner, and Olympic-Triathlete. My passion for health led me to earn multiple certifications from the ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) in Fitness Training and Sports Nutrition and NESTA (National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association) in Lifestyle Weight Management and a Master Pro Coach for Precision Nutrition, an international organization comprised of the world’s top nutrition, sleep, and stress management experts. I have had the honor of being awarded the 2019 Woman-Owned Business of the Year, 2020 Woman of the Year, 2021 Fifth Placed in My Class for Ms. Health and Fitness of the Year, and most recently the 2022 Excellence Award in Health and Fitness.
Today, living a healthy lifestyle provides me with the vibrancy to better show up both personally and professionally. I’ve learned a handful of lessons along my journey that empower me to give back to others and help them live a vibrant, healthy, active lifestyle.
Here are the 10 lessons that I learned and I’m still learning!
- The decisions we make, make the life that we live. The choices we make have a huge impact on the direction our lives take us. There was one thing standing in my way – A DECISION. I knew staying on the path of disease would be hard. I knew venturing into this uncharted territory called healthy living would be hard. That day I had to pick my hard. I’m so grateful that I chose to take the path of health versus staying on the path of potential chronic disease. This decision changed my life in ways I never thought possible.
- You’ve got to quit thinking about the HOW. I had to stop thinking about HOW I was going to get there and what next quick fix, a short-term solution I could tap into. I had to really understand what it was I truly wanted, WHY that was important to me, what difference that was going to make in my life, why would that matter and WHY would all that matter.
- Embrace Obstacles Along the Way. I had many obstacles during my journey; the more I embraced the tension that this journey was creating in my life, the more growth I was experiencing mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. My biggest obstacle out of them all was learning to feel my emotions and not turn to food to hide the pain or to feel good in the moment hoping it would all go away. We can embrace obstacles as the way or we can allow them to stop what could have been.
- Stop Playing the Short Game. When it comes to creating a healthier lifestyle, there is no quick fix, short-term solution. I finally realized that the “all or nothing” mentality was getting me just that, nothing. It was time to play the long game. I had to embrace the concept that making small changes over time will lead to longer-lasting and greater results. I had to embrace the long game.
- Grace Over Guilt with Self-Compassion. Guilt and shame around food and exercise send us into an endless cycle that never leads to true transformation. This was my way of life for over 35 years. You know the cycle…. we eat something unhealthy then we beat ourselves up with the head trash and force ourselves to work out to make up for it (even though we aren’t really making up for it), and then we find ourselves creating an unhealthy relationship with ourselves, food, and exercise. There is the freedom to be found once we ditch the guilt. Self-compassion and positive self-talk are important for overcoming setbacks and staying motivated.
- Stop Pressing the Pause Button. Life is always going to be there. It has no pause button. The game of life just keeps going. There’s never going to be a moment when things are magically easier and it’s a perfect time to start creating a healthier lifestyle. Holidays will always be there, vacations will always be there, and parties will always be there. It’s life!
- Progress over Perfection. I finally realized that taking on a lifestyle change was not about being perfect. It was about making progress and creating small new habits over time. There is no such thing as perfection. Perfection and restriction were only leading me to burn out and in that constant repent and repeat cycle. Learning to celebrate small victories along the way can help boost confidence and motivation.
- Build A Support System. Sometimes we think we can do things on our own because vulnerability can be scary. Yet, I learned that having a support system was the best gift I could have given myself. Support from friends, family, a coach, or a community can be helpful for accountability and encouragement on those days when you just feel like giving up!
- Transforming from the Inside Out. I realized for me to create a healthier, sustainable lifestyle, it had to start on the inside. I really had to take the time to understand who I was, what it was that I truly wanted and who I wanted to be moving forward. I had to create essentially a new identity; an identity of a person who is living a vibrant, healthy, active lifestyle.
- Changing the way I looked at food. Food was the obstacle that was holding me back from living a life that I so craved. When I began to look at food as fuel to feed my body not to mask my feelings, my life began to change in ways I never thought possible. It was pure freedom.
We can’t avoid, fast forward, or push an easy button for our pain, our past, or our struggles. It’s in our awareness, our processing, and letting ourselves feel it all now that we can then move through and forward. Even something we think is simple, like weight loss and our health, requires this kind of introspection.
Whatever is going on in your mind, in your body, and in your soul, stop, pause, and challenge it before you feed it. That day that I finally challenged myself to get on the path of healthy living, led me on a journey that I would have never imagined.