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Looking at me, one would think that I am always cheerful, upbeat and happy. This is not true. I had a difficult past, filled with emotional illness, depression and an anxiety disorder.
I never liked sports when I was a kid, so once my emotional health went downhill, so did my weight. I’ve struggled with eating issues for a long time, including from well-intentioned comments from others. While I was working on fixing my emotional health and my eating issues, my weight ballooned to 220 lbs.
It came to a point where I hated what I saw in the mirror. More importantly, I hated how I felt. I started trying to work on my nutrition, but my progress was halted by medical problems. A year and a half ago I started swing dancing, and as my love of it grew, so did my fitness level.
Then I started running. I ran my first 10K race about three weeks ago now—something I couldn’t have even dreamed of doing a year ago). And that stuck. I started going to the gym and doing Body Combat and I completely fell in love with it! I was also introduced to the 21 day fix, which completely changed my eating and turned my view of eating from a chore to a necessity to fuel my body.
It was so hard starting this journey. Yes, looking at my pictures, you see a completely different person physically, but almost as importantly is the emotional and mental transformation that took place. I still struggle with the thoughts of “you’re not good enough” or “you’re not making progress,” or “you still have so far to go, what does it matter what you do?”
There is so much stigma about weight that it feels like you already have to be fit to be working out. When I first started running, I had to override all of the thoughts left over from my past anxiety issues. A lot of the time, it was hard to even convince myself I was exercising rather than panicking. It is so easy to think those things. It is easy but I know that I cannot let myself get burdened by them, because they are not true. Change is happening, even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. I didn’t get to being 220 lbs overnight, so I can’t expect to get down to 140 lbs overnight.
A journey like this is so mental. One of the biggest things people notice is my attitude, how my whole being has essentially changed. Exercise helps a lot with that, but it’s also the process that it took to get here. I had to learn to overcome a lot of obstacles, I had to learn to listen to my body—even when I didn’t want to—and know my limits. I had to reroute my thought patterns, especially the anxious ones. The first response to exercising was always
“oh no, my heart rate is increasing—that must mean I am in danger.”
A lot of times people ask how I keep my motivation, how I keep going. I have learned that you have to take it one day at a time, because what you do today will shape your results. One thing I stress is the idea that each day is a new chance to get it right. This can be applied to every area of life. One of the most important things for me is self love—learning to love the person on the inside. If you work on being super fit but still hate yourself, then you will never be happy. You have to learn to love yourself the way you are, and then push yourself to be the best you can be. It’s hard to truly love yourself.
Am I perfect? Heck, no! I understand how difficult it can be even to start something like this. I come across as having a ton of energy, being positive and peppy, but that is not always the case. There are still days when I want to curl up in a ball on the couch and not move the whole rest of the day. There are still moments where I don’t want to work out, when I am sore and just don’t want to put in the extra work.
I am a work in progress. And it is those times—when I don’t want to work out—that it’s more important that I do get my workouts in, that I do put in the work. It is during those times that change happens and I become stronger than I ever thought I would be.
It has been a long journey, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. And I am not done yet!
I have come a long way, but I have a long way to go and I love every minute of it. Since starting this journey, I have become a completely different person than I was. Now, I laugh. I am happy. When I don’t work out, I miss it. It is my outlet for my frustration. It is a sign I am on the path.
No dream is too big
Natasha updates us on her “personal best” story.
For most of a year I’ve been stuck at a plateau of 176 lbs. However, as of this morning I am only 1.2 lbs away from my long awaited goal of getting below 170 lbs! When you don’t see progress for a long period of time it’s easy to be discouraged and let it get you down. It’s a matter of continuing on. You have to retrain your brain to learn that progress happens, and there are many ways to measure progress, not only the number on the scale. I have continued training at the gym, doing body combat frequently and running.
This past year I have taken a few huge steps outside my comfort zone and did two completely uncharacteristic things. I registered for a half marathon in October! That is huge for me and this past week I am finally able to add distance because I have a 5K time under 40 min. The second thing that I did was sign up for a bikini competition. I don’t expect to be perfect. I don’t expect to place. I’m doing it for me! If you have a dream, reach for it because you never know if you never try! No dream is too big.