The highlight reel.
We’ve all heard this term, right? It’s meant to remind us that when we read blogs and scroll through social media, we’re seeing the parts of life that others want us to see. The perfect birthday parties, the homemade sushi, the cocktail garnished with garden fresh herbs, the perfectly posed after-workout selfie. Rarely do we see pictures of piles of laundry that went unfinished, greasy Chinese containers on the counter, or workout calendars with tons of unchecked boxes.
There’s nothing wrong with sharing positive things- we all do it- but rarely do they paint the whole picture. Thinking about this made me want backtrack a little bit and share my fitness story. I don’t want you to think that I was always some 5 am- wakeup- do a workout- post pictures- drink a shake- pack a healthy lunch person, because nothing could be further from the truth.
I was a 6th grade science teacher at a charter school in Philly, and I was subsisting mostly on coffee (large iced, 7 pumps of mocha, 7 packets of Equal, extra milk- I can’t make this stuff up) and Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast sandwiches, with the occasional Wawa turkey on white, oil and vinegar, provolone… stuffed with Doritos and polished off with a king size candy bar.
I was perpetually exhausted. My sleep schedule was erratic. I stayed up too late, woke up too early (only because I had to- my workload was not manageable for me), and was riddled with anxiety and irritability. I would come home exhausted, give myself yet another jolt of caffeine and sugar, toss and turn all night, wake up exhausted… you get the picture.
One day, while I was teaching my students, I got a text from my then-boyfriend, now-husband, Justin, telling me that we got orders, and we were going to be moving. Fun thing about the military: they’re not too keen on unmarried couples moving together. We had already planned on getting married in 2015, and we couldn’t bear the thought of Justin leaving and me not coming along (<3) so we changed up our timeline. We got engaged just before Christmas, and we went into overdrive and planned a wedding for January 31, 2015. I was so excited, but also felt an incredible amount of stress. I was quitting my job, finding a new one, leaving the city that had become my home, getting married (into the military, no less), and moving 7 hours from my family.
I wish I could say I dealt with this stress in a healthy way… but that would be such a crock! As my stress increased, so did every unhealthy habit I had. I ate more garbage (shout out to Pizza Hut), guzzled more caffeine, exercised even less, slept less, drank more. I was looking for stress relief in the wrong places, and I didn’t find it.
On February 15th, we moved to Dayton. The next day, Justin went to work. I did not, because I didn’t have a job. Instead, I puttered around my empty house and tried to busy myself. I wanted to make friends, but was too nervous to put myself out there, so instead, I binge watched Army Wives on Netflix in hopes that I would find something semi-realistic that I could relate to so I’d feel less alone. I would wait and wait with anticipation for Justin to come home for lunch. I would eat when he was there, and I would eat again after he left. I remember going through an entire box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in one day on more than one occasion.
I was feeling like garbage, yet again. I heard about this thing called Diet Bet, and asked Justin if he wanted to give it a try with me. At that point, I’m pretty sure he would have done anything to snap me out of my funk. We did a few rounds and lost a few pounds, which was exciting, but what I was doing wasn’t sustainable. It was a lot of crash dieting right before the deadline, only to gain those pounds back after the submission day.
While scrolling on Facebook, I noticed one of my friends made a post about a clean eating group. I didn’t know what clean eating was, but the concept sounded so… refreshing, especially compared to what I was doing. I called my friend and asked her to fill me in, and she talked to me about how clean eating focuses on a diet consisting of whole, real food- not packaged stuff. I remember feeling a little confused at first. If I wasn’t eating packaged food… what could I eat? What else was there?
I knew I had to do SOMETHING, so I joined the next clean eating group she was a part of. I knew that the group was Beachbody-related, but I didn’t know Beachbody from Advocare/ Herbalife/ Isagenix/ Slim Fast/ South Beach Diet, honestly. I started to get the hang of it- Ezekiel bread replaced hamburger buns. Eggs were served with salt, pepper, and sriracha instead of piles of cheese. Turkey replaced beef, a shake replaced pancakes, and daily walks replaced TV time (at least once in awhile).
I saw progress eating clean- my energy was up a little, and so was my overall mood. After the ended, I didn’t want to stop. I talked to the leader of the group and asked if she was running anything else, and she asked me to join her challenge group. All of the women in the group seemed to be doing programs, and I remembered that, years before, in a moment of I-don’t-even-know-what, I had ordered Insanity off of an infomercial. I found the box, dusted it off (literally) and put the DVD in the Xbox. I was only trying the workout so I could be like the other girls in the group.
That first workout sucked. There’s no other way to put it. I had to take break, after break, after break. My asthma was a mess. My stomach hurt. I didn’t have a good time. I was annoyed by the women in the video because who looks like that?! Regardless, I saw the women in my challenge group posting their sweaty selfies and pushing through their workouts, day after day, so I did too.
Then, something weird happened- I completed the entire first month of the program.
There was something magical to me about that 30 day mark- I felt like I had accomplished something big. I realized that just as these women in my challenge group had motivated me to make a change, maybe, maybe, I could motivate other women to make a change as well. I had always been pretty good at motivating students, so perhaps I’d be good at this too?
I talked to the coach running the group and got myself signed up, with no idea what I was doing. I plodded along for months, sometimes telling others about my workouts, sometimes getting really into eating clean, sometimes ordering pizza three nights a week, sometimes following a program, sometimes not, and saw very slow, yet consistent, progress in my own fitness.
We were at home in Northeastern Pennsylvania visiting with my parents, and my mom had a Beachbody package show up. It was supposed to be Turbo Fire, a program she wanted to try, and instead, it was… the 21 Day Fix? Total shipping error. I got on with our customer service team for her, they sent her the correct program, and told her to go ahead and keep the Fix. She wasn’t particularly interested in it, and I felt like I should give it a go, simply because I was a coach and lots of coaches did it.
I took out the little containers and couldn’t believe how small they were. I downloaded the app and stuck to the plan (for the most part- there were two pizza nights, if I recall correctly). I drank my water, got consistent with my Shakeology, and stayed on top of my workouts.
That shipping mistake changed EVERYTHING.
Those stubborn pounds that had been hanging around for a year began to melt away. My energy levels soared. My anxiety decreased. I was sleeping like a baby and waking up with intense energy, no caffeine required. My mind was clear, I was decisive, and within a few days, my cravings were gone. The payoff I got from eating crap was no longer worth the consequence.
Now, after many rounds of the 21 Day Fix (as well as a round of 21 Day Fix Extreme) as well as a handful of other programs (major shout out to Cize) I’m closer to my goals than I ever have been in my adult life, and I’ve done it in a healthy, sustainable way. I still eat crap sometimes. I am not perfect. There are nights when I don’t get enough sleep. There are days when my workout doesn’t happen. Takeout is still a thing in my house.
All those things being said… most nights, I do get enough sleep. Most days, I get my workout in (bonus point- it usually happens in the morning!). Most days, all of my food is home cooked and clean.
For some people, lifestyle overhauls happens overnight. For me, that wasn’t the case. Please remember, if you’re taking steps to be healthier every day, you’re moving in the right direction. If you’re making progress, no matter how small, you’re moving in the right direction. If you’re feeling happier, less anxious, more energetic, and less controlled by food, you are moving in the right direction.
I’d love to hear about your fitness story!
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