Sharing the history of my health and fitness journey – from an active teenager, to over exercise and underrating for many years, to finally finding some balance. This is my story!
Oh boy. Where do I even start. This post has been a long time coming. I’ve been sharing my life, recipes, and fitness with you guys for almost 4 years and I have never shared my health and fitness journey. I wasn’t always into healthy recipes, working out, and wellness in a healthy way. I’ve talked about it here and there, but have never really dived in. What actually spurred this is I saw someone call me orthorexic on social media. A complete stranger I didn’t even know. So to be more open with you guys, I’m am going get real deep about the struggles I’ve had over the years and where I am now. So here we go….
FYI, this post is very long, so be prepared.
I think my journey starts in a similar place as a lot of health and fitness bloggers do. I grew up with a great childhood – I was happy, healthy, and very active. I started playing sports at the age of 5 and continued until the end of college. I played on travel soccer and softball teams all throughout high school and also played for my high school. Most evenings I had some kind of practice and the weekends were some kind of tournament.
My parents cooked a decent amount and we ate healthy at home (for the most part), but we were also so busy with sports, we found ourselves eating fast food or were at random restaurants where ever we were traveling. I also liked to go out to eat with my friends once I had my drivers license. My metabolism was killer though. I ate so much food during those middle years of high school. I wasn’t the skinniest, but I was healthy and had a good athletic build. Senior year of high school, I remember girls were starting to get more conscience about what they were eating, but it didn’t effect me too much. I feel like I had a good balance of eating well and then eating like shit, but didn’t have any bad connotations about food.
All of that started to change in college. I went to James Madison University, and if you are familiar with it, it is a pretty big party school and known for having a lot of pretty girls. I started getting into health and fitness a little, going to the gym, taking some nutrition classes, and just being more conscience of what I was eating. I was in a long distance relationship my freshman and sophomore year, so being committed to someone, I felt pretty confident with myself. I do remember random parts of obsessiveness – my boyfriend at the time surprising me and me being upset it interfered with going to the gym – but my relationship with food and fitness didn’t start to get bad until junior year. I also started birth control my freshman year of college since I was in a serious relationship. I also had irregular periods. I didn’t know it at the time, but it really affected how I looked. Looking back, I feel like I looked swollen and my boobs were HUGE. My mom had said this a few times during this period, but I didn’t think much of it.
The Start of my Healthy & Fitness Journey
Junior year of college (September 2008) is when it things started to change for me. I had just gotten out of that relationship and just read the book Skinny Bitch. I don’t recommend reading it, especially as a young adult, as it very one-sided and basically says how eating meat makes you fat and all this other crap. I mean the title in itself kind of says it all. After reading that book, I decided to stop eating meat (I became a pescatarian – still ate fish, eggs, and dairy). My mom actually doesn’t eat meat, so it wasn’t that foreign to me. I was now also living off campus with a few girlfriends and newly single. AKA I was ready to mingle and party. And I had just gone off birth control as I felt like it wasn’t needed anymore.
I started to work out more intensely as I wanted to look my best. I also started to eat better. Living off campus I only had 5 meals a week from the dining halls. Being the cheap college students that we were, my friends and I would save all our money for partying on the weekend. I don’t think we ever bought groceries. My parents would stock me up 1-2 times a semester when they visited and that was about it.
By my senior year (2009), my obsession with eating healthy was full blown. Breakfast would be a little fat free yogurt (maybe 1/2 cup) with some granola (maybe 1/4 cup). Or a bowl of puffed rice or Kashi cereal with skim milk. Lunch was an apple, peanut butter, and maybe a few pretzels with mustard, or something similar. We would get food from campus for dinner and those meals usually consisted of a large salad (or “bomb ass salad” as we would call them). We would load them up with lots of veggies, maybe some beans, maybe tuna fish if I felt like I worked out enough that day, and dressed them with a side of vinegar because I didn’t want the fats from oil. I also didn’t want any croutons or things like that as I didn’t want extra carbs. I want to say it was less 1000 calories most days.
During this time I also struggled with binging and restricting. During the week I would eat perfectly (or what I thought). Lots of veggies, not a lot of fat or carbs. I was still hungry most nights, but not wanting to eat anything to ruin my day. If I was desperate, I would eat a scoop of peanut butter, but most days would just go to bed early so I wouldn’t have to feel hungry. Friday we would sometimes “indulge” and eat a sandwich for dinner since we were going to drink, but I would only eat half so we didn’t feel “too full” before going out.
During the weekend it was game on though. I definitely liked to have fun (that’s an understatement). My friends and I would drink a lot. I also smoked a lot of weed (I am just being honest here). On Friday we would pretty much drink our faces off, come home and smoke, and then eat some food. Repeat again on Saturday. Most weekends I would drink so much I would black out. Then Sunday we would binge on all the food – bagels, pizza, Chinese, Mexican, french fries, chips – sometimes a bunch of those all at the same time. I would eat until I felt sick on occasions. Monday would roll around and I would go right back to eating clean. I’m pretty sure I was fueling myself off alcohol and whatever I ate on Sunday for the whole week.
My fitness routine was also getting very intense. I got more and more into running and became obsessive with hitting certain mileage. I was hitting 35-40 miles a week and this was just Monday-Friday…weekends were for drinking. I was also playing club softball and some intramural sports. One day I remember running 12 miles in the morning, going to softball practice for 2 hours, and then playing in an intramural soccer game that night. Another time I remember running 10 miles in the morning, but not feeling like I worked off my horrible weekend of eating and drinking enough, so I went back to the gym to run 4 more miles in the afternoon. Working out was a punishment for what I ate and drank.
I felt tired and rundown most weeks. My body need more food, but I would ignore it. I didn’t have the energy to work out, but would force myself to hit the treadmill. I even fainted a few times at random points in college. It usually happened when I was high and luckily my best friend was with me, but that is obviously NOT okay. It actually happened to a couple of my friends as well. I’m not sure what it was from, but I’m sure the lack of food, marijuana, dehydration, and whatever else didn’t help. We knew it was f*cked up, but just laughed it off though. I was in this horrible cycle of restricting and binging and over exercising, but I was skinny and that is all that really mattered to me at the time.
I started college probably around 125-130 pounds. At one point I got down to 105 pounds. I remember one of my guy friends asking “where my ass went”. At that time, I didn’t really understand what he meant, but now I can obviously see now. I had lost a lot of weight and pretty much all my curves and muscle were gone. It even impacted me playing sports. I was pretty good a softball, but I got so fixed on looking a certain way, I lost most of my strength and speed and was not that good anymore. This obsession was pretty much controlling my life.
I graduated college in 2010 and the habits continued. I lived by myself at my parent’s beach house and was working 2 jobs. My lunch still consisted of an apple and some veggies. I worked in a restaurant and didn’t even enjoy their delicious food because I didn’t want to gain weight. I wasn’t drinking as much, but still had a very unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. My working out slowed down, but that just meant I just wouldn’t eat as much. I moved to San Diego a handful of months after college and it continued. I would run along the beach or bay every day. I joined a local boot camp and started to do some strength training, but had this idea in my mind that cardio is how I lost weight, so I had to keep doing it. I would run during my lunch break (I worked from home) and then do a bootcamp class at night and was still eating my salad for dinner. I was still indulging on the weekends, just not to the extent of making myself sick.
I moved back home in 2011 and was still trying to run lots of miles, but was so burnt out. I had this really bad pain in my knee, but should just try to push through it. One day I saw a Groupon for CrossFit and figured I would give it a try. Little did I know it would change my life. I instantly loved CrossFit – it was challenging me in all these different ways I had never tried. It had camaraderie which I missed from playing sports. And there were strong as f*ck females there doing badass shit.
It took me awhile to truly understand it though. I was still binging and restricting and I still believed I needed a lot of cardio to stay skinny. I would do CrossFit in the morning and then run a few miles in the evening during the week. Michael and I started dating around that time (6 years ago!) and I remember sending him a picture of my dinner one night – maybe a cup of spaghetti squash, a tomato sliced up, and 1/2 of a small avocado. Pretty sure he was like wtf – it just makes me sad thinking about it.
As time went on, I noticed how other girls that started CrossFit the same time as me were getting so much stronger than me. It made me do some evaluating. I started to do some research and stumbled upon paleo (it is pretty big in CrossFit, especially back then). I talked to my coaches and decided to give it a go for Lent one year. I was still not eating meat at this time so I did a modified version – just eggs and seafood. Thinking back, this was still limiting a lot of food for me and I wasn’t eating that much. After 40 days I did feel great and decided I wanted to try some meat. I slowly added it in and was feeling awesome (I think this was the first recipe Michael and I made with mat in it!). I don’t think I knew how bad I felt until I really started changing my diet. The thing is, I kind of have an all or nothing personality. So when I decided to do paleo, I did paleo 100% and became obsessive with ingredients and not eating anything that didn’t fit in the diet. I remember trying the zone diet to get super lean, but was starving all the time. I was slowly gaining weight and it was mostly muscle, but my mindset was still not in a good place.
In February 2014 my gym was doing a Whole30 so I decided to give it a go. I did it and it was awesome. It really opened my eyes to eating freely and eating to feel my best. I felt great and looked great, but I was also looking for the next thing. And I was a little obsessive at times. I was also going through a stressful time in my life – Michael and I had been dating long distance for 2 years and were trying to decide what was next. I was really disliking my corporate job and was dying to get out. In April 2014 we took the leap and moved to Austin! With this a lot of things changed.
Despite still having some struggles with food, this time of doing paleo and Whole30 completely changed the my eating habits. I was in the kitchen cooking meals, trying new recipes, trying new foods, and it really got my creative juices going. This is when I really started to love to cook and be in the kitchen. Nothing made me happier (and it still does) than making something delicious that I could share with others and they enjoyed it too. This continued as we moved to Austin and really what made me start this blog (with a little push from Michael). As much as I thought it would be cool to do it as my job, I would of never of thought I would actually be doing it one day.
In Austin, we were living together for the first time and were in a new place. We wanted to celebrate. We didn’t have that many friends and resorted to just going out every weekend and living it up. My drinking consumption went way up (it was moderate for the past year before), we were eating out, and just having fun in a new city. I didn’t realize it, but I probably gained 10-15 pounds in 9 months. January of 2015 rolled around and I hated how I looked. I didn’t know what happened. This stirred me trying some new things to loss weight. I started tracking my macros and it helped, but I was restricting my food (especially carbs and fat). I lost a little weight and leaned out some, but I was unhappy. I moved to Austin to start over with Michael – I wanted to get into health and fitness and didn’t want to work for corporate America. I ended up getting a corporate job when we moved because I felt like I needed to.
In March 2015 I started my blog and in August I quit my corporate job and started to go all in. I was working multiple jobs (fitness studio, acai cafe, helping another blogger, working at the farmers market…) and started to eat more plant based with some meat here and there. I was working at fitness studio and was starting to get into that overexercise mindset again. This went on for a handful of months until I decided to do a Whole30 with a group of friends in June 2016. During this time and after, I was finally start feeling back to myself and back into the eating habits that made me feel so great. After that Whole30, I feel like kind of felt like I had a found a good place of eating.
Over the the next 2 years, I really tried to focus on finding what works best for me. I started tracking my macros around September 2016 as I was starting to train for a marathon at the end of the year and knew I needed more fuel. Adding more food made me feel better than ever – for me, I tend to under eat when I am just eating paleo or Whole30. My runs were going great and I actually qualified for the Boston Marathon running my first marathon. Since I felt so great doing that, I tracked my macros for most of 2017. And I got pretty freaking lean. I would only say I lost 5-7 pounds, but my body composition completely changed. But I started to feel tired and burnt out again. I was working out 5 days a week or so and my calories were kind of low. At the end of the year I was tired, irritable, moody, had low sex drive, and restless. I might have looked amazing, but I didn’t feel it on most days.
One thing that did help with tracking my macros, was with my food freedom though. It helped me not label foods good and bad and helped me realize that most foods can fit. I experimented on eating different things and how they made me see. I really honed down on that and it really helped me discover my food freedom.
To keep it going, during these past 10 years, I was also struggling with my hormones. Since going off birth control in 2018, I hadn’t really gotten my period. I didn’t get my period for 5 years straight when I got off the pill. After those 5 years I got it randomly, but maybe 20-25 times over 10 years. At first I didn’t mind it and liked not getting my period. My mom always had trouble with hers, so I thought it was okay. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I knew I had to take action on this. I was about to get married, turn 30, and kids may be in our future.
So here were are now. Almost at the end of 2018. In the beginning of 2018 I did my third round of Whole30 after my parents visited for a month and my food freedom got off track. After that I started working with a nutrition coach to help me get my hormones back on track. I also was maybe dealing with some digestive/bowel issues that I wanted to figure out (aka my poop wasn’t how it should be). With the help of my nutrition coach, for the past 6 months I’ve been working out way less, eating more food than ever (well at least in the past 12 years), and just have focused on healing my body. I’ve been supplementing with vitamins and minerals to help me get my hormones back on track, scaling down the high intensity workouts, seed cycling, and tracking my macros to make sure I eat enough (especially carbs and fat).
Over these past months, I have probably felt my best since who knows when. Besides the fact that I am eating more food than ever (and I freakin love food), I am actually listening to my body. If I don’t want to workout, I don’t. If I want to eat pizza with Michael, I’ll eat it. I haven’t worked out this little in who knows how long and my body hasn’t felt better. And you know what, I haven’t gained weight. I’ve actually leaned out as I’m not constantly overworking myself. I’ve gotten to know my body and the foods that make it feel good. I have truly learned health & fitness is all balance. It’s a freaking marathon, not a spirit.
Now I’m not saying I am perfect – I still have my moments and I still have a ways way to go. But loosening the reigns has helped me in more ways than I could ever know. I eat mostly whole foods that make me feel good – lots of veggies, meats, seafood, fruits, and things like that. We eat a lot of gluten free grains in our house. I also like to eat pizza with my husband, have ice cream, and get down on some tequila. Do dairy and gluten make me feel my best? No, but I don’t say I can never have them again. I am a huge proponent of the Whole30 (it changed my relationship with food in so many ways) and also counting macros (it has helped me realized that all foods can fit). You don’t have to be one side or the other. If something is working for you, then stick with it. Will I count my macros for forever? Probably not. But right now this feels good for my body and I couldn’t be happier with the food freedom I have found.
My goal for this post is to really just tell my story. To be more open with you guys. As much as I eat healthy, exercise, and take care of my body, there are so many things going on inside of us that we don’t know. I know I’m not the only one struggling and know that you aren’t alone. If I would have known one thing, I wish it would of been that more exercise and less food is slowly killing you on the inside. A six pack is really not going to make you happier or solve all your problems. To listen to my body. Be more forgiving of myself. Eat the damn cookie if you want it. Food makes you happy and you are denying yourself of happiness.
Okay, that is it for now. Maybe soon I will go into how I got my period back, the difference between Whole30 and counting macros for me, and other things that I have struggled with and done along the way… If you read this far, thanks for following along. This wasn’t easy to write as looking back on some of my habits and what I put myself through is kind of hard. It might be hard to tell the difference in the pictures over the years, but it goes a lot deeper than what is on the outside. If this helps one person see things a little differently, writing this was 100% worth it.
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