My weight was always something that I had struggled with since I was very young. Although never dangerous to my health, I had always been slightly overweight (or what you would maybe call chunky, heavy, chubby, etc). And even though I was an athlete from kindergarten to high school, I never managed to shed the extra pounds.
I began to develop Body Dysmorphic Disorder at age 12 years old – this was a result of my basketball coach kicking me off my team because I “needed to lose weight” despite the fact that I was undoubtedly one of the best players on the team. I’ll never forget the feeling of my heart sinking into my stomach when my coach told me those words. It made me feel like I wasn’t good enough because of the way my body looked. This was the catalyst that resulted in my struggle with severe body image issues. I remember walking through the mall with my mom and pointing over at a roughly 300 pound woman and asking my Mom “Am I as big as her?” as my Mom would look back at me in horror. I had such a twisted idea of what I actually looked like and what I was supposed to look like, when in reality I was just a normal little girl.
I spent my teenage years obsessing over my appearance and constantly comparing my body to others. I would end shopping trips with my Mom early, running out of the store in tears because I hated the way I looked in anything I tried on. I would wear sweatshirts even in the hottest days of summer because I was ashamed of my body. I turned to food for comfort whenever I felt depressed, which was basically every single day. By senior year of high school, I had quit the basketball team and picked up smoking cigarettes. This is when my depression, along with my weight, were at an all time high.
Luckily with the support of my two amazing parents, I was able to work through my depression and Body Dysmorphic Disorder by the time I went off to college. And as I matured, I learned to appreciate myself for all of the wonderful things I had to offer and all of the amazing things I was capable of. College was where I truly re-discovered myself and repaired my relationship with my appearance. Unfortunately, I had exchanged my body image issues for chain-smoking and binge-drinking habits. I got a job working in a bar my senior year of college, where I ate and drank for practically free. This was the culprit of gaining extra weight on top of the baby fat that I was never able to shed. A few months after graduating college, I made the move from New Jersey to Los Angeles (in March 2014) in search for a career in the entertainment industry. Little did I know that was where my fitness transformation would begin.
Los Angeles promotes a healthy lifestyle unlike any other city. I was first influenced by the abundance of healthy options at grocery stores and restaurants, so it was very easy to develop healthier eating habits than I was used to. I also started walking to get around – something I couldn’t do in the suburbs of New Jersey. This is where I noticed the initial 10 pounds come off, but this happened very slowly over the course of the rest of the year.
The healthier eating habits I adopted in the very beginning:
– Eliminated fried/deep fried foods and chose baked or grilled instead.
– Stayed away from heavy or creamy sauces or dressings.
– Eliminated soda – exception was mixed drinks on the weekends.
– Incorporated more fresh veggies and salads in my meals.
– Reached for healthier snacks like fruit or almonds.
About a year later (April 2015), I cut out dairy from my diet because it has always been pretty harsh on my stomach. I figured I could also eliminate some fat and calories by substituting almond milk in my cereal, smoothies, and coffee. I’m not a huge fan of cheese (shocker, I know) so it was very easy for me. I was amazed by how quickly I stopped having stomach aches and digestion problems. Next, I decided to stop eating fast food. Of course we’re all aware of how horrible it is for us – no surprises here. I would, however, allow myself to have a fast food cheat meal once or twice a month which I usually ended up saving for a Sunday hangover cure. These two changes contributed to about 10 more pounds of weight loss over time.
Speaking of hangovers, this leads me to my next little milestone. In the spring of 2016, I decided to stop drinking every single weekend. As a young adult living in a lively city, that sounds like the least exciting choice I could make. But, I made this choice for a reason a little other than strictly getting healthy. I could NOT handle the hangovers anymore. I would wake up after a night of drinking and feel like my head was in a vice. I had no chance of leaving my apartment for the entire day if I were hung over. Which, of course, would lead me to having to order food… and probably something greasy and unhealthy. I was sick of the routine, sick of wasting my weekends feeling like I was on my death bed, and I was sick of spending so much money on calorie heavy drinks that would only make me feel HORRIBLE the next day! Why was I torturing myself? I decided to ease out of my partying phase every weekend and try to avoid the heavy drinking. Sometimes that meant not going out at all, which was hard to do without feeling like I was missing out. But I was able to have productive weekends because I wasn’t recovering from drinking. This also resulted in roughly 5 pounds of weight loss for me.
Here’s how I changed my relationship with alcohol:
– Avoided partying every single weekend, went out once or twice a month instead.
– When I did drink, I ordered things like a vodka & club soda with an orange wedge for a little sweetness. Much lighter on the calories and sugar.
– Eliminated soda as a mixer.
– I started to plan the nights when I actually wanted to drink. For example, I took a break from drinking several weekends before a big wedding I was attending – that way I could really enjoy myself and not have to think twice.
Since my weekends had more time and I was feeling really good from not being a hung over mess, I started to exercise. I would go on hikes on the weekends (the Culver Stairs were my favorite… I still go sometimes!) and go running a few times a week. I quickly dropped an easy 5 pounds from the increase in activity. Although my habits were getting more and more healthy, I still was consistently smoking 3/4ths of a pack of cigarettes a day. My runs were not necessarily enjoyable because I could really feel it in my lungs. Sometimes I would come back from running and smoke a cigarette almost immediately. Eventually I decided to quit smoking. I soon learned that people who quit smoking tend to gain 10 pounds or so, which did NOT sit well with me considering it took me three years to lose 35 pounds. I wanted to quit smoking and NOT gain that 10 pounds. In order to do this, I knew I had to make some drastic changes. And by drastic, I mean life-changing. So that brings me to November 1st, 2016: the day I quit smoking and joined a gym. And yes, both happened in the same day.
After 8 years of inhaling the grossest, most toxic shit ever… I quit cold turkey. I was really afraid that quitting would actually feel like a setback if I gained weight, so I joined a gym later that day. Initially, I had no idea what I was supposed to do at the gym besides run on the treadmill, so I consulted my best friend to show me the ropes at our local LA Fitness. I couldn’t afford a trainer, so I designed a routine myself based on things I read on various websites, magazines, and blogs.
Starting off was rough. I was experiencing withdrawal both physically and mentally from quitting smoking. I was doing more physical activity than I had ever done in my life. The adjustment phase lasted about a month for me. I cannot stress how crucial my commitment was during this adjustment phase because it was by far the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. I was relieved to discover that this became significantly easier after the one month mark, so I fully committed to stick with the plan. I had invested too much time to turn back and I actually started feeling healthier and happier every day. Also, I was starting to see results – something I didn’t expect so soon. Although small, seeing these positive changes in my body helped further fuel my dedication.
Aaaaaaaaaaaand three months later, here I am! As of today I have successfully lost and kept off 35 pounds – 19% of my body fat, 2″ from my waist, and 3.5″ from my hips. I am visibly slimmer in my stomach, chest, arms, and thighs – and am gaining muscle throughout my entire body. I no longer suffer from migraine headaches or digestive issues. 95% of my diet is healthy and clean food. The remaining 5% of my diet is for treating myself (non-dairy ice cream and dark chocolate), the occasional drink or two or three, and/or the rare trip out to eat. I have zero plans to ever smoke a cigarette ever again in my life. I can honestly say that I look forward to sweating my butt off at the gym 5-6 days a week. I feel fucking amazing. I hope you know that with a little hard work and determination, you can too.
This is only the beginning – I am beyond excited to continue working towards a happier and healthier me. Stay tuned for more progress photos and updates!