Before this year, health was not on my radar. But then, a ton of things happened in my life that were out of control, and this took a toll on my well-being. I went to therapy, tried to pray about it, and on the outside, I was fine. But subconsciously, I was not.
And so I started to stuff my feelings with food.
I started what one might call “emotional eating.” Eating like crud made me feel so much better. I went to Cincinnati two times a week for my internship, and these were the days I ate Chick Fil A or the legendary Canes (that sauce is heavenly) regularly. On top of that, I was having a heavy Dunkin’ Donuts coffee most mornings. My bank account certainly wasn’t thriving.
I loved indulging in these foods. It made me feel good inside, and for those couple of savory minutes, I didn’t have to think about the crap that was going on in my life. On top of this, I was getting less than 6 hours of sleep every night. I was exhausted all the friggin time. And I was going out a lot more. I’ll be honest, going to parties and bars with loud music and socializing made me forget about what was really going on in my life. The cherry on top of my unhealthiness was that I was barely exercising at all. The gym was no friend of mine.
Drinking a lot + not sleeping + being a Dunkin’ regular was certainly not helping my health.
My confidence sunk. I would look in the mirror and not feel good about myself. I looked tired all the time. And it’s because I was really letting myself go and not taking care of myself whatsoever.
It wasn’t until I got home from my junior year of college for summer break that I stepped on a scale and saw that I had gained 20 pounds. My confidence sunk. This is when I knew something needed to change.
I didn’t know how to bake carrots, nor did I care to cook. I didn’t really know how to lift weights without feeling like a total wimp. If I wanted to start this new lifestyle, I didn’t even know where I would start.
Of course, I contemplated going vegan, then I realized that I would need to cut out my entire diet, which was quite discouraging and certainly didn’t make me feel better about myself. I tried cutting out all sugar and fast food, but then I thought, What the heck do I eat?
I felt paralyzed with all the options of healthy living. I felt like I had so many options on how to be healthy, so many diet plans, so many workout regimens, that it felt like I couldn’t do anything. Since there were so many ways of getting to a healthy lifestyle, I was left with no idea about what to do next.
Cue moving to Nashville, where I became closer friends with my BFF Zahra. I remember sitting in the car with her and opening up about my struggles with food and health. Since she’s one of the healthiest people I know, I figured she would have some good advice for me.
I told her that I didn’t know what to cook for myself. I felt bad about myself, I didn’t know what workout to do, and I didn’t know if I would gain another 20 pounds if I had that one piece of chocolate that I had in my pantry. It was clear I was overwhelmed.
Then my BFF gave me this kick-butt advice. She looked at me like she completely understood where I was coming from. She got it. Though she was incredibly healthy now, she once had struggled with an eating disorder and had taken a long time to find out how to live in a balanced, healthy way.
She told me that getting healthy is a process, which first made me want to roll my eyes because I’m the kind of person who wants a full plan laid out for me on how to get to my goal. Though she did not give me that, it was everything I needed to hear.
She told me that healthy living should not be about what you look like. It should be about feeling good and energized and treating yourself with love and care. Basically: health should not be about how you look, it should be about how you feel.
This idea shocked me. I had seen that weight on the scale and considered myself a failure. I had looked at my intake of martinis and lattes and chicken nuggets and felt ashamed. I felt like failed my body or myself, and I didn’t know how to get back to where I once was.
Yet, my friend’s advice had nothing to do with the extra fat I was noticing on my stomach or how to look like Kendall Jenner. It had everything to do with treating my body with the love and care it deserves.
And so I went home that night and began my health journey. I went on Pinterest and researched wholesome meals. I learned about healthy fats and watched YouTube videos on health advice from fitness gurus.
A couple of months after that vulnerable conversation in the car, I am finally living healthier than I ever have. I cook myself nourishing meals. Every weekday morning, I wake up and get my booty to the gym, which gives me the energy to tackle the day. And now on a night out, I try not to down four flirtinis and get home at a reasonable hour so I can get the sleep my body deserves. I am finally, after a long time, taking care of myself.
So maybe it’s not about the number on the scale. In fact, I’ve stopped weighing myself completely, because #effthat.
I want to put my energy into giving my body love through food, fitness, and self-care. I am taking care of the body that God has given me to live in. And if I lose a few pounds in the process, well, fantastic. But if I stay at these 20 pounds that I’ve gained after those months, at least I have treated my body with love. With care. With what it needed all along.
If you’re in the position I was in all those months ago, you don’t have to stay there. You don’t have to keep eating like crap. You don’t need to feel bad about yourself, and you certainly don’t need to feel exhausted all the time.
You can change. You can change when you go to sleep, you can put down the extra shot, you can learn how to cook brussel sprouts.
And because this is a process, it might take you a long time to figure out what works for you. But taking one step towards a better life is all it takes. You are starting the process, you are trying. And that effort will go a long way, even if you’re not on a keto diet or lifting weights like Arnold Schwarzenneger.
Learning how to take care of yourself will completely change your life. I know it certainly did for me.