I promised to tell my health and fitness story in my first blog post, so here it is. The reason I started this blog.
Some background first. I was always pretty healthy and fit. I ran cross country and track in high school. In college and beyond, I ran recreationally and went to the gym regularly. I ate mostly healthy foods. My body image was pretty positive.
My health started to change in 2011. I lost some weight without trying. I could eat whatever I wanted, and I was always hungry. Those were the good things. There were bad things, too. I got out of breath easily while running. My hands shook a little bit. I was anxious. I was always hot. I couldn’t sleep.
Eventually I went to the doctor for a wellness visit and was promptly diagnosed with Grave’s disease, or hyperthyroidism.That means my body was producing too much thyroid hormone which accelerated my metabolism. The treatment for this condition is very rudimentary. You take a radioactive iodine pill that effectively kills your thyroid and induces the opposite condition – hypothyroidism. If hyperthyroidism causes weight loss, anxiety and insomnia, hypothyroidism causes the opposite – weight gain, depression and fatigue. If given the choice between the two of them, I’d pick the former, but apparently both are dangerous and hypothyroidism is easily treatable with medications.
As I said, I gained weight and became depressed. The logical solution in my mind was to go on a diet and exercise a lot. I did what had been recommended so often in the past – 1,200 calories and lots of cardio.
That 1,200 calorie diet quickly spiraled into an eating disorder. I became afraid of so many foods. Going out with friends or to a family gathering induced an anxiety attack because “there won’t be anything I can eat.” If 1,200 calories meant weight loss, 1,000 was surely more effective. And just to make sure I didn’t get “fatter,” I spent at least two hours at the gym each night switching between the treadmill, elliptical and weight machines.
When I didn’t see the results I wanted, I was devastated. I would sob, eat less and work out harder.
I knew I had a problem but I didn’t know how to fix it.
Everything came to a head in early 2014 when I broke down crying at a doctor’s appointment about how I was still fat despite dieting and exercising. Instead of recognizing my cry for help, my doctor suggested I eat less, because most people underestimate how much they eat. I wasn’t underestimating. Raw spinach, steamed broccoli, tilapia and grilled chicken dominated my diet.
A switch flipped inside my head that day. Within a few days, I found (on Instagram, the logical place to look for solid advice to recover from an eating disorder and boost your self-image) a community of women around my age dedicated to weight lifting and eating to nourish their bodies. I spent a lot of time reading about nutrition. Counting macros and reverse dieting and clean eating and cheat meals and how many calories a woman my age with my activity level really needed. Hint: It’s more than 1,200.
I ultimately chose Jamie Eason’s Live Fit Trainer (a free basic weightlifting program on Bodybuilding.com) and reverse dieting as my first steps out of the darkness. Since then, I haven’t stopped growing and learning. I’m still in love with weightlifting and learning about food and cooking and finding ways to love myself more.
Like I’ve said, I’m not an expert, just a person who has chosen a path toward better overall health. I started this blog in hopes of offering a glimmer of hope to even one person walking the same route.
P.S. I purposely left out before and after photos because my physical transformation has been the least important part of this journey for me.