Before I was overweight I always wondered how people could let themselves get that big. Which sounds mean, but I just didn’t understand, until I became overweight. Because it happened slowly. It started with the freshmen 15 (which was normal, right?) and ended with me being 205#. My friends reflected my lifestyle so we all “grew” together and none of us noticed, and if we did, we all were polite and pretended not to. I was lucky and took a trip out of my paradigm to where I grew up (South Africa) and got to visit all my childhood friends, who had made different lifestyle choices and were not overweight, as I had become, and all of a sudden I realized that I wasn’t healthy.
It was like someone had turned on the light in a dark room. All of a sudden it was clear as day, where before my perception was clouded by social norms, polite niceties, and common trends. But I was stuck in addiction to delicious foods (and had been trying to eat “healthy” to no avail for years only to watch my weight climb and my drive and motivation to work out plummet) and stuck in an environment that perpetuated the poor health. I felt lost and didn’t know what to do. After all, after your teens it was just a slow decline where we fight to slow the freefall.
Fast forward to today and I’m healthier and fitter than I have ever been. If you had asked me back then if I would ever be where I am today - I would have laughed at your face. In fact, I probably would have said something like, “But I love food and hate working out” (half of which is still very true). Now I’m the girl that overweight-me hated. The girl that “obviously didn’t have to work at it”, or who “could eat whatever they want and not gain weight”, the one I would judge at restaurants and envy while they ate their cake and looked great in jeans and I choked down the blandest salad I could find.
But if you’re reading this now and believing this photo is the result of some really spiffy photoshop skills, or that I took something somewhere along the way, or maybe it just worked for me – fortunately none of that is true. Hopefully sharing some of my early moments in this journey will shed light on your path ahead, and hopefully we’ll all continue to surprise ourselves and redefine what we thought was possible.
Start where you can, I started Paleo because my friend promised to shut up about it if I just tried it. And while I do not believe Paleo is the right diet protocol for everyone (nor do I restrict carbs as much as it recommended at this point in my training), Paleo taught me to cook, and that food could taste good without being a) covered in bread/bread product or b) doused in sugar. Paleo taught me to like vegetables and to see food in a new light; but committing to one whole month of pure Paleo was all I could handle at the time. I did some light jogging and tried to get into rock climbing over the first six months of changing my diet, but that was about it. If you’re like me and one big life change is enough at a time, then choose your big change and make it successful, don’t try to do all things at once.
Celebrate your successes; trust your journey. When I actually started CrossFit I had lost all the way down to 135# (the picture on the right) and gaining muscle meant gaining weight, which was really disheartening. And while the number on the scale still haunts me every once in a while, my gym family kept reminding me that it wasn’t about the number on the scale, it is about how you feel, how your clothes fit, what you can do, and your health. If any of those things are improving, celebrate them. Take your before photos and hold on to them for when you forget how far you’ve come. This is a journey of very many small steps, sometimes we need to look at the map to remember where we came from and where we’re going. Just keep going, you’re worth it.
For my entire first year I thought about quitting probably every month. Eating differently meant I didn’t get invited to the same things any more. Working out meant my social life had to change to accommodate getting enough sleep. My old friends didn’t understand. My new friends looked like magazine models and I was struggling not to compare. I came last in almost every workout in embarrassing fashion. To say that sometimes I finished the WOD feeling demoralized would be an understatement. But the thing that kept me coming back was that I knew that I was better than the day before, healthier, on the right path – and I’m glad I kept on it. You will be too.