This post is a long time coming. For years, I have been meaning to do a post and/or video about how I got to where I am and why. I guess I was waiting for the perfect moment or the most inspiring way to share my story but since it’s still early in the year, I figured perfection is the enemy of progress and it’s about time I share my story and my personal struggles with weight.
My path to wellness started in the mid-90’s when I was a sophomore in college. I was happy, I had a lot of friends, and I was having a lot of fun in school. One of the things I loved most was acting in student films. It was at a screening for one of those films that I realized something that I had been in denial about for years. I was extremely overweight.
At only 5’3″ and I was tipping the scale at 175, at my heaviest. From my junior year in high school to my sophomore year in college, I had been steadily putting on weight until I could no longer deny it. I remember leaving the screening before it was over and crying all the way to my dorm. I had thought I looked ok when we were filming the scenes, but the reality was quite different from my idea of myself. Could I really be that big?
Growing up, my mother was great about cooking from scratch as well as never having sweets, sodas, or processed foods in the house. It wasn’t until high school that I started to introduce convenience foods into my diet—for the usual reasons of limited funds combined with limited lunch spots to choose from.
I was a very active kid, having started dancing at three along with gymnastics, ice skating, and baton twirling. I was always very disciplined and practiced very hard, which until I was about 16 kept me quite busy. In the later years of high school, my studies took over, as did all my extracurricular activities, and my more fitness-oriented activities took a back seat.
After that student film screening, I decided to take my health into my own hands and vowed to never let myself be that overweight again. I found out that I had various food intolerances, removed those from my diet, learned how to eat sensible portions of healthy foods, and in a few short months, I had lost 60 pounds.
Great, right? Well, for a while it was. Then, after graduation, I moved to Los Angeles. The stress of moving across the country to a city where I knew no one took it’s toll. With limited funds and basically eating my emotions, I put about half the weight I had lost back on. But I knew I couldn’t go back there again. I started working out regularly, began to do quite a bit of research into nutrition, and got back to my healthy weight.
That’s where I discovered a book called Fit For Life. It changed my life forever. In early 1999, I switched to a plant-based diet and never looked back. At first, I gained about 10 pounds because I was gorging myself on starchy foods to fill me up but I knew that that wasn’t going to work. I ended up getting my masters in holistic nutrition, going to culinary school, and finding my way back to a healthy weight and optimal health. If it weren’t for my weight struggles, I wouldn’t have found my passion and my career.
Is it all rainbows and unicorns now? Hell no! I’m human, I’m a woman, I have good days and bad days, days where I indulge too much and days where I beat myself up. My weight has fluctuated a bit since 1999, going from healthy weight to 10-15-20 pounds over. I’ve tried fads, tons of workout regimens, raw food diets, etc. Just because I’m a health practitioner does not make me immune to life and it’s challenges. From happy eating to stress eating, too busy to workout, or giving myself too much of a break, life happens.
Do I have an eating disorder? I’ve often wondered that but nah, I know I am a member of the clean plate club and I do have a love/hate relationship with what I stuff in my face but, I’ve never binge eaten or avoided eating (and I hate throwing up so I’ve never gone there), I just stress over it. Do I have body dysmorphia? Probably. I can remember feeling “thick” at times but then, looking back, I was quite thin. I feel that way often, in fact and when I look at photos, it’s not as bad as I imagined on the day and vice versa. I will say our minds play an enormous role in the battle of the bulge and recognizing that is half the battle. (Thanks GI Joe!)
The one thing I’ve gained from all of this gaining and losing is wisdom and confidence. Maybe it comes with age, maybe I finally figured out that I can’t control everything (like my body type and my inevitably changing hormones as I approach 40). Yeah, sure, I’d love to look like a Sports Illustrated cover model, but I also know that with my body type, hectic travel schedule, relationships, etc, it’s a long shot. And I’m ok with that. I like working out and I love eating healthy but I don’t like spending hours at the gym and not being able to enjoy a cocktail or cake every now and again. And despite knowing what I’m “supposed” to do, I don’t always follow my own advice. Yep, human.
So, I choose a healthy balance. I eat clean and I exercise five days a week, but I’m not perfect and never will be. I will enjoy meals with my hubby and cocktails with friends, hiking on trips and binge watching my favorite TV shows. I also know that what worked for my body a year ago may not work now. It’s all about balance and doing things that make you happy. We’re all a work in progress. Health is the most important thing and I can say with full confidence that I am extremely healthy. Doctors always are stunned by my bloodwork and vitals, which always makes me smile. Who cares if I don’t have the figure of a supermodel? Ugh, who am I kidding, most days, I do, haha!
Psychology, genetics, hormones and body chemistry are a lot to try and handle on top of daily life and I choose not to make myself crazy about attaining the perfect body. And just because I am saying this, doesn’t mean I won’t have days where I hate all the clothes in my closet and wish I looked like a Hollywood starlet who appears eats what she wants and doesn’t exercise (appears being the operative word). They may still happen more than my “confident” days, and that’s ok.
How do you keep your body image in check? Tweet us @Hip_Latina