The cat's out of the bag, I'm struggling to get back into shape. Okay, it wasn't really a secret and I wasn't really keeping it.
The term "back into shape" is really weighted for me because I always have felt like for the majority of my life I've always been trying to get somewhere with my weight. There have only been very brief moments of feeling settled when it comes to my weight or how I look. There's only been brief moments where I've sat back and thought, "I'm here. This is how I'm supposed to look. I'm happy."
I was never a skinny kid, albeit never really overweight. I was never delicate or petite. I remember feeling "skinny" around the age of four or five, modeling a new two piece bathing suit I was head over heels in love with. Then, I remember being ten or eleven and playing softball. I was always so slow at running compared to everyone else and no matter how hard I worked I felt like I never could get on an even playing field. I hated running and I hated conditioning, but I did a lot of it. I ran back and forth to so many foul poles in my life, that it makes me uneasy and envious of my former self for being able to push through that mental/physical challenge.
I'm not naturally athletic. Every bit of athleticism I possess I had to earn through blood, sweat, tears, and many long hours. I was the worst person at throwing a softball at the end of one spring season. By the start of fall, I had surpassed everyone else and become the best on my team. It seemed like I had transformed overnight, but I hadn't. My Dad and I had thrown a softball for at least an hour every day over the summer. We did drills. We threw and we threw and we threw. My arm got stronger, my aim got better, and I advanced. The same thing went for hitting and for fielding. I spent hours at batting cages, hitting off tees, and taking lessons. I felt like I had to work ten times harder than everyone else.
The one thing that never improved despite my constant effort? My weight.
I never stopped being "the big girl" or the "slow girl." I was always embarrassed by how slow I was or about how I never seemed to get the number uniform I wanted because it was meant for a "small." I felt huge (when actuality, I was a healthy weight for my height). Softball, because of all the running, helped me lose weight little by little. I left each season, feeling "in shape" and "slim" and of course during the off season, gaining it all back. It was a vicious yo-yoing until I graduated high school at my skinniest adult weight ever.
(if you'd like a reference for what I consider my "skinniest adult weight ever" than this picture gives you a pretty good idea. This is me the summer of 2011).
I remember looking at a picture of myself and finally thinking, "This is it. This is the weight I'm supposed to be at. I'm finally 'skinny'." I fit into tighter fitting tops and I entered the summer before college feeling confident and happy. I went to student orientation and took the photo for my student ID. My face was so skinny, so tan, and so vibrant.
Freshman year was a roller coaster. I could feel myself gaining weight slowly, but not really feeling affected by it. I stayed within a range that I considered "skinny to normal" and remained feeling, overall, pretty good about my body and my self. My roommate and I would occasionally get down in the dumps about our weight, toss around ideas of crash dieting, and then give up and continue on living our freshman lifestyle (aka tons of fast food and too much alcohol on the weekends).
I gained a ton of weight between freshman and sophomore Christmas Break. I took a look at the mirror and couldn't fathom myself. I vied to be that "skinny" freshman again. My entire family conveniently started low carb dieting while I was home for Christmas break and I was able to lose around 10-15 pounds in two or three months by restricting my carb intake. I noticed a slight difference in my body, but none that felt good enough. It wasn't until a friend's mom commented on "how thin and good" I was looking. My weight loss was suddenly apparent. I then began seeing a guy and my confidence boomed.
Of course, the low carb lifestyle was hard to maintain as a college sophomore and I gently eased off of it. The weight came back slower, but it did come back.
Junior year was emotionally rough. I stayed relatively in shape during the fall semester because I lived in a sorority house. There was always at least one roommate to go to the gym with and there's something exceptionally self conscious about eating every meal with people tinier than you. There wasn't a meal that went by that someone at the dinner table didn't remark, "Ugh! I'm getting so fat!" or make some sort of calorie-counting comment. I limited my intake without really realizing it and started noticing how blah I felt when eating around so much body negativity. It made me feel indirectly self conscious of every morsel I put in my mouth. By spring semester, a lot of emotional things had happened, and I ate more and cared less. Who cared about calorie counting?! Who cared if they had an extra piece of cake at dinner?! Screw the negative energy! I went in the polar opposite direction, vowing that I would eat whatever and love myself no matter what.
I went on like that for a long time.
This past fall, my friend Jenny and I went to the gym several times a week trying to "get back into shape" again like we were when we were playing softball. That seems silly to think about now because we were literally doing two hours of physical activity a day, five days a week, which is a pretty impossible standard nowadays. Though we were consistent and intentional about our workouts, I never felt like I was losing any weight and I only felt like I was marginally getting into better shape. It was frustrating. My body had never been so slow to respond to the hard work I was putting in. It was so frustrating that I quit.
Then life happened. I got busy and this spring semester I have not been able to get my fitness or health in a place I'm satisfied with. I have short bursts of discipline that don't seem to stick. I've remodeled my pantry full of good food and have tried eating in more. I feel and actually am heavier than ever. It's so frustrating.
Some days I wake up feeling appreciative of my body and everything it can do. I feel thankful that I'm able to get up and run if I want to or am able lift something heavy. Some days I feel like I have the curves of a goddess. Some days I wake up and stare at myself and think of how I have a body straight out of the Italian Renaissance. It makes me beam to think about myself that way as I admire my hips and thighs and skin. I take notice of the soft parts of my body and feel undeniably feminine somehow.
Other days I wake up and am briefly disgusted. I have a love/hate feeling regarding shopping. Part of me says, "It's only a number on a tag. It does not define your worth. There are cute clothes for any style and any size in this day and age. Buy clothes that fit you, Ashlee" and the other part of me feels helpless and disappointed when nothing looks quite right because of this bulge or that one. I loathe my arms, my stomach, the rolls on my back, and the newly acquired and generous amount of cellulite taking up residence of my booty and thighs.
My lower stomach has acquired new stretch marks and upon their discovery I sobbed like a vanity obsessed lunatic. Fresh pink and purple marks now line the smallest bulge on my lower tummy, physical proof of my weight gain. I couldn't/can't ignore it any longer.
I immediately began searching through vegan, paleo, gluten-free, non-processed, low-carb, clean-eating, and etc. blogs. The amount of information was overwhelming and I felt more stunned than anything. This was going to be a very long process, with no short-cuts to be had.
So for the past month I've been trying to live healthier and be healthier. I've been slowly trying to make a lifestyle change based on eating the right sorts of food, drinking more water than ever, and incorporating exercise. My emphasis on health instead of "weight-loss" or "being skinny" has made this process seem a little less gruesome.
I know it will be a slow, arduous process and I'm very much in the thick of it. I just wanted to share this story because my health and my weight have been on my mind so much in these past few months. It's been consuming too much brain space and I sometimes think getting thoughts out and into the world is healthy.
So, long story short, I'm working on it.
Have any great recipes, tips, or works-out you love? Let me know!