Did your school record your height and weight? Mine did. Twice a year, we would line up and step onto the scale, one after another, while our gym teacher recorded our stats. I hated that day. I learned in second grade that I was heavier than my friends. I didn’t realize it was a “bad” thing at the time, but even then, I was aware that my number was higher.
I was an active kid. I started cheerleading when I was in fourth grade, and cheered all the way through my senior year of high school. I spent all of my free time at the barn, riding horses, mucking stalls, helping with feeding. Summers were spent outdoors, swimming and playing with my cousins. I wasn’t the kid who sat in front of the TV with glassy eyes and a bag of Doritos.
I was also the kid of divorced parents and money was tight. At one point, my mom worked three jobs to make ends meet. We had a good meal every night, but I was a picky eater at the time, refusing most things green, and healthy, and so I ate things like Hamburger Helper and tacos – things I would eat and that fit our small budget. During weekends with my dad, we ate a lot of Ramen and fast food. He wasn’t much of a cook back then and again, I was a picky eater.
I also spent a lot of weekends at Grandma Myrtle’s and mornings with Papa Clark. Even now, there are no rules at Grandma’s. She would ask what I wanted for breakfast, I would say “french fries,” and they would appear. Chicken nuggets for lunch? Cheeseburgers for dinner? It was like placing an order at a restaurant. Papa liked to feed us breakfast. He didn’t do bowls of cereal though. He did big, hot breakfasts. His specialty? Sausage gravy over biscuits, usually with eggs and bacon.
I miss his sausage gravy. And how he would go right back to bed after he fed us.
The fact that I was overweight didn’t bother me throughout my school career. There were times in high school where I would think “I should lose some weight,” but I would continue skipping breakfast, eating pizza for lunch each day, and snacking heavily before Mama got home from work and made dinner. I just accepted the fact that I was always going to be the base on my cheerleading squad and never run the mile in a decent time in gym class.
My first experience with weight loss came with my first breakup. It’s a classic tale of the 19-year-old who foolishly thought she would marry the very first boy she kissed. I was devastated, food was unattractive and so, I dropped a few pounds and my work skirts fit better. It was all very Khloe Kardashian Revenge Body.
That weight loss ultimately wasn’t notable and was completely null and void as soon as I started dating someone else who had a habit of taking me to buffets on dates. Wood Grill, and Chinese restaurants were our standard date night stops. It was easy to pack weight on with him.
Then, life happened.
Our breakup sent me to a pretty rough place. I was depressed, dealing with anxiety, and experienced a few panic attacks. It took some time to pull myself out of that, but when I did, it was with a vengeance. I had taken a break from school, both to get my head on straight, and to figure out what I wanted to actually do with my life after realizing it was not the nursing program I was enrolled in. Having had an epiphany about writing and the music industry, I re-enrolled in the local community college, this time with a purpose.
At this point, I was working a full-time job, from 8AM to 4:30PM, and taking a full-time course load. I had classes until 10pm four nights a week, plus online classes. I ate a lot of fast food, usually while driving from the office to school. Sometimes, work ran late and I didn’t have time to pick up food. I would sit through hours of classes, stomach growling, and make a detour at the grocery store on the way home. I would buy a tube of Pringles, a soda, and something frozen that would heat fast when I got home.
I usually ate all the Pringles before I got home.
Life turned again in the fall of 2008. I took what, to date, I consider the biggest risk of my life and transferred to the University of Tennessee to finish my degree. I didn’t know a soul, but I followed my gut, and hoped it would all work out (it did).
For the first time, I was entirely on my own. It was up to me to make my own meals, wash my own clothes, even wake up to an alarm, without the help of my mom poking her head in my room. I still remember what my first “I live alone” meal was:
A honey mustard chicken sub from the Quiznos on the ground floor of my apartment complex, add cheese, hold the lettuce and tomato, a bag of harvest cheddar Sun Chips and a diet Dr. Pepper on the side, please.
UT is a beast of a campus to walk around. It’s beautiful. It’s one of my favorite places on earth. It’s full of hills and stairs and classes tend to be spread around in the most inconvenient way. Also, it’s hot in Tennessee in August and September (October… Sometimes November…). I went from occasionally deciding to go for a leisurely walk along the back road I grew up on to hoofing it in the heat at least a couple of miles a day. The stairs to Ayres’s Hall twice a week were enough to kill a girl.
My jeans were suddenly looser.
I didn’t know anyone at first, and I wasn’t willing to sit around my apartment, so I started going to TRECS, the campus gym across the street from my apartment (no excuses). I remember stepping on the scale there. I weighed in at 245lbs. That’s the highest number I’ve ever seen on a scale, but I know it’s not the heaviest weight I’ve ever been.
I didn’t know what I was doing at the gym. It was multiple stories, and I developed a routine of going straight up to the third floor, where the track was located. There were a few ellipticals and treadmills up there, so I could workout with far less people watching me. I would do 30 minutes on an elliptical, walk the track for another 20 or 30 minutes, and call it good.
I quickly lost twenty pounds.
I gained just a few of those pounds back when I returned home for the summer, mostly out of sheer laziness. I dropped them again as soon as I was back at UT and dashing from class to class, putting in time at the gym, and playing intramural soccer (badly) with my sorority. Still, health and fitness wasn’t a priority.
The next summer, my last as a college student, I interned in Nashville. That summer taught me so much about myself. I learned how much I loved the music industry, how resourceful I could be, and just how little I actually needed to live and be happy. I made it the entire summer on $1200, walking an actual mile (even uphill on the way home) one way to get to the bus stop, and eating $1.00 frozen meals for dinner every night.
All of that walking resulted in another 20lb weight loss.
I know. It’s a slow build.
Here’s where it gets good.
Once I was out of college and living in Nashville as a working professional, I started to take stock of my health. I was overweight, happy with how life was going, but not happy with myself, and desperate for a change. I started attempting things like the Atkin’s Diet and walking the perimeter of my apartment complex multiple times a week. I not only wanted to change, I was ready to change.
There is a difference, between wanting to change and being ready to change.
I saw a commercial for Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time over just before I got in the shower. By the time I got out of the shower, I had decided to join.
I entered the world of food tracking and measuring everything I ate. Weight started to fall off. I remember looking in the mirror one morning and realizing my face looked thinner. I remember, too, calling my mom as I walked out of Old Navy with a pair of size 14 jeans. I hadn’t worn a size that small in years.
About nine months into my Weight Watchers journey, I decided it was time to move back to Charlottesville. I joined the Junior League and through JL, took a free barre class. I liked it. Another member told me I should try Pure Barre, so I took their “first time free” class.
I left the studio with their new student month unlimited classes special.
Pure Barre was a game changer for me. I toned up, got stronger. I fell in love with fitness and jumped at the opportunity to start teaching at barre.[d] studio and sharing a method of fitness I still love. I joined a gym, tried different workouts and classes. I started to see even more results. I went to a session at The Gym and got hooked on lifting heavy things.
At some point, I realized I was influencing people. Not on purpose. Not because I was trying to get their attention. But because I was simply sharing what I loved – barre and weight lifting, and a lot of coffee and puppy pictures. I realized I was reaching for books on health, fitness, and the body, just to “learn more.” I got certified as a personal trainer, just to “learn more” and started researching nutrition.
Currently, I’m at my lowest weight to date, I can squat almost twice that weight, and I still love teaching barre. But more than that, I’ve realized I’m an example. Not only of what hard work in the gym and kitchen can do, but of the fact that healthy and fitness is a lifestyle with non-linear results.
I didn’t get “fit” from a six week boot camp or a crash diet.
I lost my first 20lbs (that I kept off) in 2008 – nine years ago. I joined Weight Watchers five years ago. I started taking barre three years ago and teaching it two years ago. My journey has been long and slow and entirely worth it.
Moving forward, this blog will be my platform for not only sharing my health and fitness journey, but for providing knowledgeable information on topics like exercise and nutrition, sharing fun, effective workouts, and so much more. I’m excited about what’s to come.
That’s my story.
Now, what’s yours?