A handful of you have been reading since I started documenting my running and then pregnancy back in 2008! Thanks for reading!
So, my health journey began my freshmen year of high school: biology class.
I was 14 years old, and we were talking about dissection and the food chain and the teacher wanted a raise of hands how many people were vegetarians. There was one girl. And I think he asked her to explain why and she simply said that she didn’t want to eat animals. I vaguely remember the teacher questioning her about it a little, but I was intrigued. I started thinking about it – I was eating animals! Right then, I decided I was going to be a vegetarian too! I stopped eating meat, but continued to eat fish. I don’t remember how my mom reacted to this news, and we didn’t have any vegetarians in our family. I’m sure she was thrilled! (sarcasm!) About a year later, I stopped eating fish as well.
During high school, I mostly looked for fake meat alternatives, ate a lot of pasta and carbs and still ate dairy. I was an athlete and mostly ate whatever was in front of me as long as it wasn’t meat. My mom didn’t really know what to give me but always tried to find recipes to make. A highlight was “lentil loaf” one Thanksgiving – everyone made fun of it since it looked like poop, but now this would be something I would probably love! I didn’t really think about what was healthy and what wasn’t, I just ate meatless food. I went through high school pretty carefree, and was busy with sports and never thought about what I looked like or compared myself to anyone else or had any worries! The good life!
Off to Villanova! College was the first time that I found myself to be looking around me and then comparing. I became very self conscious. I really wanted to do field hockey and I didn’t try out in my freshmen year, and I felt sort of lost! I sat in classes with girls that were picture perfect looking, matching dressed up outfits, looking great. It wasn’t me to dress up, I always favored the athletic look, so I felt out of place. The dining hall had so many options, healthy and unhealthy! And the buffet style eating will get you. Pizza, salad bar, calzones, frozen yogurt store, garden burgers …The little shop that was open 24 hours…I ate Ben & Jerry’s often as well as jars of peanut butter! I don’t have a good memory of all of the options during my freshmen year but I didn’t participate in any organized sports, and I did participate in binge drinking so by the summer after freshmen year, I gained the freshman 15!
Sophomore year -this is when the way that I thought about food changed drastically. I was 15 lbs over my normal weight, which was 150 lbs. I tried out for field hockey and didn’t make the team, so I decided to join the crew team! We were up at 5:45 to get into vans at 5:50 to go to the river. This was a great team feeling for me and I made some great friends! I loved being part of a team again and being athletic. I found out quickly that there was a cut off for heavy weight and light weight and at 5″4 I did not want to be considered a heavy weight! I was determined to be lightweight – under 130 lbs. I took a nutrition class to learn all about food and nutrition, but I think I learned that calorie counting was a good way to stay on track?! I decided to calorie count and be super active to lose the weight. Crew was intense and then I made sure to exercise later in the day as well. I tracked everything. I didn’t drink as much. I didn’t really have fun either, I was obsessed with losing weight, and over 6 months I lost 25 lbs. I was restricting calories so much I was obsessed with food and loved to bake. I ranged between 123-125 lbs for weigh-ins each week and never had to worry about being close to the cut off which would have stressed me out. I loved crew team but the friends that I made were my lightweight boat friends, and several of them sadly had eating disorders. It was stressful if you were close to the 130 cut off! From that point on, I wasn’t the same person. Food was always on my mind – but mostly calories, not health. Sophomore year of college was a turning point in my life.
The summer after sophomore year, I traveled abroad to Italy for 6 weeks! I was way too focused on food and I decided at some point before this trip to become vegan. So I was in Italy…and I only remember eating vegetables, olive oil and bread! I read labels and was very strict. I was no fun at all – barely drank and didn’t go out at night, and somehow on this trip I actually met my husband! I came home at the lowest weight my body could probably ever handle at 121 lbs. I spent the next semester eating vegetables and salads at the dining hall, and trying to maintain that weight and continuing to row until I injured my back. I had to stop rowing but kept active with running and going to the gym. I was probably missing out on many nutrients and not eating enough! I quickly found that my healthy weight was around 128 lbs, and became more balanced out in my senior year, but made exercise a large part of my life!
Graduating college I continued to eat what I thought was healthy, and always exercised. I learned more about healthy foods, but mostly this was driven by tricky marketing – I ate lots of soy, drank diet cokes, but did eat lots of veggies and salads. My first job was teaching and coaching high school girls, and I wanted to be a strong role model. One of my best friends did a marathon a few years after college, and it sounded awesome! My first marathon was in 2004, and I continued to run races and put all of my time/commitment into running, which kept me in shape and well balanced!
The running community is a great one, and I felt strong and thought I was making good food decisions. I was up early always to run, and ran often! I still didn’t have a great relationship overall with exercise and food and felt that I HAD to run so that I didn’t gain weight and so that I could eat more food!
PREGNANCY – late 20s
When I got pregnant in 2008, I felt that I had to stay active, I was really nervous about never losing the weight after having a baby! I ate well and stayed very active, had a great pregnancy and delivery, and then ran the Boston Marathon with a 10-week old (which was crazy in retrospect but an awesome memory!) I think that was my way of challenging myself that I could get back in shape quickly! After that, I worked out at least an hour 6 days a week, sometimes 7. It took me a little while to realize that days off, especially from running, were good! I still ate lots of soy at this point, nut butters, veggies, not many carbs or fruit, and maintained my normal weight.
It was not until after I had Nick and resigned from teaching that I really learned about health, what to eat and what not to eat, and became a foodie. I continued to run, and also started swimming again! Workouts were driven sometimes by guilt, but I felt SO good after working out! Still a morning workout person! I learned about Amazing Grass. I sampled protein powders, nut butters, I started making smoothies, I wanted to be as healthy as possible! I did lots of research and found myself looking up food and health blogs.I fed Nick using the Super Baby food book and he was a super baby! With each baby, I learned more about myself and about health and exercise.
Now after baby #4, I have the best outlook and healthy balance. Having babies and raising children changed my life! I am learning so much about how big companies have tricked us into eating what is marketed as good, but really is horrible! I am eating to be in the best health possible – plant-based diet, limiting processed foods and sugars, and I workout moderately – 30 minutes a day. I don’t get on the scale really ever. I love the time that I work out and look forward to it, and I love the feeling after I workout, so I enjoy the sweat session! I do not feel the need to exercise excessively and I would never count calories again. I am passionate about health. I love making healthy snacks and teaching my kids about health, what we should eat to be in our best health and to have energy. The goal is to live a long fulfilling life in good health. Everyday I learn something new, and want to share it. I hope to become a health coach to help others.
What does health mean to me? Energy. Feeling strong and healthy. Eating to live.
Foods: Plant based eating. Fruits, Vegetables, Seeds, Nuts, Smoothies, Beans!
Leading by example. I want my kids to be strong and confident, and my family to be as healthy as possible.
What is your journey to health? Where are you on this journey? How can I help?