My fitness challenge.

About six months ago, I started noticing that a lot of my clothes didn’t fit. Tops that were once loose were becoming tight in the arms, and my jeans dug so deep into my stomach, that I’d have a mark in my skin even a day after taking them off.

When I saw pictures of myself, I couldn’t believe how different I looked. My stomach, my face — much more round than I’ve ever been. I don’t shop much for clothes, but when I did (because so many of my clothes stopped fitting), I kept grabbing the sizes I was used to grabbing… and those came nowhere close to fitting.

When I saw a picture of myself in late February, I’d seen enough. It was time to get myself, my life in control, and I told myself that once I returned from vacation, it was game on.

I know that weight and body image can be touchy subjects, and honestly, this was not a post I was excited to write. In fact, I’ve hardly mentioned my recent insecurities to anyone, because I’m scared of what people will say.

The first person I told was my hairdresser. I get my hair cut and colored every seven weeks, and I’ve been going to the same person for three years now. Sometimes I’m in her chair for 2-3 hours, and I was actually there when my dad died.

So, I felt okay telling her that I’ve never felt so overweight in my life. I don’t feel good about myself, and I don’t even know how to fix it.

She nodded and shared her own struggles with weight, especially after having a baby.

The thing is, I’ve never really had an issue with weight or body image. I have, for most of my life, been fit — not just randomly — I have worked out regularly since I was 14 and I have mostly maintained a healthy diet.

The first time I ever really thought much about my weight was after my first semester in college — I had to buy new clothes because I’d gained so much weight. But, I started walking more and going to the rec center with friends, and I don’t remember having an issue after that.

Shortly after I graduated college, I went to a boxing gym on assignment for a magazine I was writing for. I took a kickboxing class and met with one of the trainers to write my piece.

But, I actually ended up loving it so much that I joined the gym and started taking regular classes. These classes were the most intense workouts I’ve ever done — they made CrossFit feel like a breeze.

It got to a point where I didn’t want to “ruin” my workout by eating poorly, so I flipped my diet around completely, was in full meal-prep mode, mostly eating grilled chicken and veggies. Rarely did I have a cheat day, and I remember feeling guilty for eating sushi on a date (rice = bad).

I also added personal training and weight lifting to my routine, putting me in the gym sometimes for 2-3 hours.

But, I was also in the best shape of my life.

When I moved to Austin, I hung up the boxing gloves and joined a dance studio. Naturally, I’m sure part of my body changes are because I’m not working out as intensely as I was, and I’m okay with that.

I am also aware that I’m about to turn 34 and my body isn’t going to be the same as it was at 16, or even at 27.

It is not lost on me that I am still very much going through grief, and I gave myself grace last year because of this. If food made me feel better at all, I was going to eat it.

And finally, as much as I hate to admit this, but all those years ago when I was so fit? I was also very much driven by what people thought of me, and I was still in a mode of thinking that maybe I’d get a boyfriend or get married.

None of that ever happened, but many men did see me naked, and I think the very nature of those moments are what drove my need to be fit, but also the same thing that’s added inches to my waist now. The thought of a man finding me sexually attractive scares the hell out of me, so I definitely haven’t cared how I look in that sense.

I don’t want this to come across the wrong way, because I am completely supportive of body positivity and being thankful for the skin you’re in. You don’t know how many times I’ve told my mom how thankful I am that my body has served me so well this long. I feel lucky that I’ve never had a serious injury or that I don’t have to wake up and take loads of pills to survive.

I also know that some people may look at me and say, she’s thin, or she’s fit — because we all have different insecurities and that whole, grass is greener thing. Trust me, I have already accepted that I’m never going to be a size two (or a size four… or a six), I’m never going to enjoy wearing shorts (I didn’t wear them even when I was a 0), and shirts that don’t allow for a thick-strapped bras are out.

There are many things about my body that I love. This is less about how I look, and more about how I feel. Because right now, I feel uncomfortable in my skin. I feel insecure in dance class, and sometimes at home I find myself only wearing my baggy sweatpants because they fully cover my stomach.

Enter: my fitness challenge.

You see, in order to remedy this, I had to evaluate my current lifestyle. In doing so, I realized that I don’t move much. Now that I work from home, I can easily go days without leaving the house, and my apartment is only 600-square feet, soo… yeah.

I also realized that even though I mostly eat a vegan diet and have stopped drinking (except on rare occasions), I am not very good about making low-carb choices, and my portion sizes are likely out of control. I also hardly drink any water besides sparkling water.

So, I made a vow to myself to do something physical every single day. It could be a yoga class, a dance class, going to the gym, or even just taking a walk. One thing, every single day, and my reward is that I get to listen to a podcast, either while I’m doing the activity or on the drive to that activity (yeah, I thought out all of the details).

I also vowed to make better food choices within my vegan diet. Things such as swapping rice for cauliflower rice or quinoa, choosing less-sugary breakfast options, and not going for that veggie burger and fries EVERY Friday. And of course, drinking more water.

My goal with all of this is not about a number (I have no idea how much I weigh, and have never focused on that) on a scale or in my jeans. It’s about helping me feel more comfortable in my skin, making sure I’m healthy, giving my body nutrients and energy so I can do well in my career, and the two most important things to me: getting a good night’s rest and doing everything I can to support my mental health.

Today marks two weeks since I started my fitness challenge, and I’ve been doing really well so far. I have been going to yoga almost every day, I’ve taken a few walks outside (although my allergies make that a bad idea), and have taken more dance classes than usual. Blanche has even joined me a few times — she has a stroller, so I’ve taken her on a few walks when she will let me.

Even just a few days in, I noticed the soreness in my body, and how much easier it was for me to fall asleep at night. I also know that my mental health will benefit — it’s never a bad idea to get out of the house, even if it’s just for 30 minutes.

As for the food, I’ll admit it hasn’t been easy. But, I’ve been eating more veggies instead of grains, and I found a vegan protein shake that helps me make it from breakfast until lunch without a snack (but I’ve been eating raw almonds as a snack when needed).

I have also been drinking kombucha as a little healthy treat – I measure out the portions so I don’t guzzle an entire bottle, but the flavors are so good (I’m going to put a review of all the kombucha I’ve tried next week). Little things like this is how I’m going to survive — so, forgive me if I get really excited over new items at Trader Joe’s!

So, there. It’s put into the universe! I’ve been posting my daily physical activities on my Instagram stories @orangejulius if you’d like to follow along. I would love any words of encouragement, workout ideas, or even podcasts to listen to along the way!

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