A Spoonful of Sugar

Exercise is important, but one day at the gym doesn’t entitle you to eat whatever you want. A healthy lifestyle is not just killing yourself at the gym to lose those extra 15 pounds. It is a process to slowly develop a better lifestyle. You definitely don’t just wake up one day and decide to change everything. It is a slow process; motivation is hard to find, for everyone.

What I personally love about exercising is setting personal records. Competition is great, but when I go to the gym I need to focus on bettering my own standards. Everyone has different goals and sets different targets. When I exercise with my workout partner it helps me to reach new goals, but I spend too much time trying to surpass her. Her core strength is much more developed than mine, but my legs are stronger than hers. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. My motivation when I workout is to set a personal best.

Cardio is my biggest pain. I don’t understand how people can just casually go for a run. That is anything but enjoyable, but some people find it to be relaxing. I interviewed sophomore at Texas State University, Alex Waldie, and he finds running to be especially satisfying and a stress reliever when classes gets to be too nerve-wracking. “It helps me clear my mind so I can do more and continue to do better in school,” Waldie says.DSC04691 He feels as if he is healthier and physically feels better when he gets a workout in. Waldie completes a full body workout over 4 days, working on arms, legs, back, and abs. “I clear my mind whenever I’m working out.” Waldie feels confident whenever he is putting out work. “The people who look amazing at the gym look amazing because that’s their main focus. I don’t feel the pressure to look like them because that’s not mine. My main focus is school and life in general.”

Although Waldie does exercise he pairs it with a good diet and eating well. “I fill up on fruits and vegetables.” He tries to drink protein shakes to balance out for the lack of protein available on campus. “I try to stay away from processed foods and [am trying] to completely stop on sugars.” He feels healthier when he puts better food into his system.

I watched a documentary this weekend, Fed Up, and it was quite the eye-opener. It goes into the lives of 3 kids and takes it one step further to show that being physically active is not the only determining factor in weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The number one contributor to obesity in the United States is sugar. Did you know that it has the same addictive purposes as cocaine? sugar cocaine brain PET scanOne of the kids was 12 years old and 212 pounds. She was frustrated with her weight, because although she was incredibly active, she wasn’t getting any progress because of her daily intake of sugar.

Staying away from processed foods is the easiest way to a better lifestyle. I try my hardest to switch out high starch options for fruits or vegetables. Simple switches get your body moving; I don’t feel sluggish or lazy when I choose an apple over a bag of chips. You know that saying “you are what you eat?” Don’t be fast or cheap!

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Jab, Hook, Uppercut!

When I first got to college I was morbidly obese. The combination of being extremely overweight and the legendary Alkek Stairs made for a very hard first couple of months.

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The Alkek stairs in the middle of Texas State University’s campus, also known as #LegDay

Everyone seemed to be obsessed with the “gym, tan, laundry” lifestyle. Gym rats weren’t common in my hometown; in fact, El Paso, Texas was ranked the 7th fattest city in the nation. Moving to San Marcos, Texas I heard phrases like “I gotta get a booty,” or “I’m so fat” regularly; having that kind of atmosphere around you definitely becomes a setting of self-loathing. Around this time my self-esteem was at an unbelieveable low point because, in my eyes, if girls that looked perfectly fine thought they had a lot of work to do than I definitely had to work two or three times harder. 

The only reason I was actively losing weight was because I was forced to walk around the campus to get from point A to point B. I did not start going to the gym until I met my great friend Brandix. She was the one that introduced me to loving exercise. She would push herself at the gym all through out the week. I would see her persevere and it intimidated me. My whole life I was conditioned to see the gym as a menacing place where things like sweat and tears thrived. A year and a half of dance classes my freshman year in high school was the most active I had been in 4 years. I finally sucked it up, went with Brandix and found that my university’s recreational center had fitness classes. They offered high intensity classes and some that were more fun: Zumba, Hip-Hop Fitness, Total Dance Fitness, kickboxing, and yoga.

I was nervous to start going because it sounded so daunting to me. Having a friend start doing it with me was what got me hooked. At first, it was more of just “I really want to lose weight. Let’s go,” but it eventually turned into a “Hey, this is actually really fun and I can sweat! YAS!” I always assumed the classes were lame, until I attended one. Kickboxing and Zumba are hard and they make you sweat, but they are enjoyable. Seeing everyone working out and making a fool out of themselves helps you have fun with it and encourages you to give it your all.

The instructors were incredibly motivating. They help give you that extra drive to feel comfortable. My Zumba instructor tries to encourage the women by saying phrases to help you get into it, like “It’s okay to touch yourself! Sexy!” In kickboxing, an instructor has told the class “Imagine you’re crushing your opponent’s skull in! JAB, JAB, JAB. DEFEND YOURSELF.” It was a very empowering experience. Exercise became an addiction. Whenever I didn’t exercise I was sad; I got such an adrenaline high off completing a work out and crushing it that I wanted that feeling constantly.

Staying active should be part of your regular schedule, even if it is just 30 minutes a day. Do you really need to watch another episode on Netflix?

Can you squeeze in a small work out? Some activity is better than no activity. Exercise is primarily beneficial to your body, so do what you can when you have the opportunity. The hardest part is starting.

I started exercising because I wanted to better my lifestyle and my life over all. When I started getting active my joints and back stopped hurting, I stopped running out of breath going up the stairs, and I enjoyed my life more. That was the best part of starting this chapter of my life. I started because I loved myself, not because I wanted to love myself.

New Beginnings

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My prom photo in April of 2013.

Going to the doctor was never a priority for me; having my name be called by the nurse and having to go get weighed in was always uncomfortable for me. So, I eventually stopped going because I was a coward. I never got “sick” but I was never necessarily “healthy.” The scale terrified me because I knew what the doctor was always going to say the same thing: “You need to take care of yourself and lose weight. You’re morbidly obese.” In January of 2013, I finally had to visit the doctor and it felt like judgment day, to say the least.

My doctor told me that I ran the risk of not being able to have children of my own because of how overweight I was. I was 18 at the time and that statement scared me, but I didn’t worry because kids were the farthest things from my mind. Nine months passed and it was the exact same routine: heavily drinking every weekend, a solid diet of Whataburger and fast food, binge watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix and getting hardly any physical activity. I graduated high school that summer, and started my freshman year at Texas State University, in the fall.

In September of 2013 I decided to cut out red meat, then chicken, and tried moving towards a pescatarian diet. While I was mainly just trying to be animal friendly and trying it out I lost 7 pounds. I looked in the mirror and felt some pride. Over the course of the last 16 months I have revamped my life and created a new image. After my diet changed I decided to start using Weight Watchers, taking advantage of the campus recreation center, and ended up losing 75 pounds. I’m still on my “weight loss journey” and continue to create a better lifestyle for myself.

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This is me wearing that same prom dress in November of 2014.
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Same dress as prom photo (front view) in November 2014

During the time it took to lose that weight I realized that I didn’t like the person that I was. I was drowning in an idea that the second I was “skinny” all my self-esteem issues would be gone. Although weight loss did help me with my self-image, my mental health was not in a good state.

I took a yoga class, out of the spur of the moment, and realizing that it was the most calming experience I ever had I noticed that I wasn’t treating my spirit right. It wasn’t until then that I realized that mind, body, and soul all create your very essence and that you need to treat all 3 equally. Eating right, treating your body right, and loving yourself aren’t things that you should skimp out on. Being able to finally workout and keep up is great but looking in the mirror and patting yourself on the back for an accomplishment is something a lot of people forget to do, including myself.

Throughout the semester and multiple blog posts I hope to reach a wide audience of people who are struggling with self-worth and self-esteem issues. My main goal is to help others and myself reach a happy medium in between bodily, mental, and spiritual health through different techniques, essentially the “perfect trifecta” where the focus is to be not only healthy but happy.