My Journey

Kid Me!
THE EARLY YEARS…

I get asked a lot how I got hooked on fitness and eating a clean diet. Looking back at my childhood, I had a very all-American upbringing. My mom and dad both had full time jobs and my brother and I would run around like monkeys outside until it was dark. I was always in some sort of sport – softball and tae kwon doe in my early years and cheerleading from high school until I graduated college. While I loved being “active”, you would rarely find me spending my free time in the gym or helping my mom cooking in the kitchen – I was just naturally “fit” due to my participation in sports.

Healthy food was never a center of concern for me growing up. Instead of, “what ingredients are in this and that” I was more concerned with “what’s for dinner” and “can we go get ice cream?” My favorite staples were Beefaroni, Capt’n Crunch, and mint chocolate chip ice cream.

GAINING WEIGHT…
In college, I stuck with a pretty similar eating routine – picking up some bad habits along the way with going out a few nights a week and ordering late night meals. You always hear that students gain the freshmen 15 – for me that wasn’t entirely the case. I slowly gained a few pounds throughout my 4 years in college, nothing major. It was AFTER college when I moved back in with my parents that I got my first reality check.

In 2007 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and it made most sense for me to live at home and help around a little bit. While being sick made my mom tired she still cooked up a storm in the kitchen. Call it comforting, but the more she cooked the more I ate. Imagine the biggest plate in your home piled with delicious steamy spaghetti with meat sauce, and meatballs. I would finish the entire plate, 2 pieces of garlic bread and sometimes have a second helping. Keep in mind, that was just a standard Thursday night. Fridays – I would help eat an entire family sized pizza…. you get the idea. What was a few pounds overweight soon turned to 20 pounds. The funny thing is – I didn’t realize I was gaining weightt until I stepped on the scale one random day and saw my “number”. Stretchy clothes have a way of concealing the truth…

DECREASING MY SIZE…

So I wish I had a really good triumphant workout story in the beginning where I overcame a lot of obstacles but what kicked my weight loss off was getting prescribed some medicine by a doctor one day for a longstanding medical situation which temporarily curbed my appetite. Instead of eating full plates of spaghetti I could only eat 1/4 of a plate. This decreased appetite went on for about 2 weeks. What I noticed right away was, “wow, I used to eat a LOT of food.” I knew I had to make this a permanent change in my diet. From that point on I started eating everything in half portions and in 4 months time I went from 145 pounds to 125 pounds. I obviously noticed the weight loss, but it was when I visited my college for a winter homecoming when a guy I used to know approached me and said something I would never forget and the impact of my success began to sink in. The guy said to me, “Wow – did you lose a lot of weight!?” While it was awesome to hear it also made me feel so embarrassed. I thought to myself, how come nobody mentioned I was getting out of shape before? I remember feeling mad at myself. That feeling has stuck with me to this day as motivation.

KEEPING IT UP… 

After I lost the first 20 pounds I moved to Iowa by myself for my first job. I had a really odd schedule, working overnight from 10 pm to 7:30 am. My eating schedule never made sense and the food I bought always spoiled. I found myself eating lots of Ramen noodles or sandwiches – but mostly Ramen as it was easy. I lost another 10 pounds and quickly hit 115 pounds – I was beyond thin! In between work and sleep, I was also planning my wedding. I had to get my dress taken in a few times just to make it stay up the day of. I signed up for a gym membership in Iowa and paid my monthly fees, but in all reality I went about 6 times in the 2 years that I lived there. I wanted to get back into working out as my natural muscular body from training all those years as a cheerleader was being replaced with bones – but I didn’t know where to begin and I was worried that I would end up looking too bulky.

MY HEALTH SCARE… 

Fast forward 2 years, I had moved back to Chicago with my husband Nick and we were living downtown. Cooking was not optional anymore, it was pretty much mandatory. Finding recipes and meals, etc. had never been a bigger stress in my entire life! I literally had no idea how to cook. Every bite Nick would take of our food I would say a silent prayer that we would not get sick 🙂 I pretty much was adopting a lot of the meals my mom made for us growing up and infusing some new options from the cookbooks my girlfriends gave me for our wedding.

In fall of 2011 my mom had encouraged me to get my cholesterol and thyroid checked out to make sure everything was healthy. I remember the conversation I had with her, saying there was no reason for me to get blood work done as I was thin and there was no way I would have high cholesterol. My mom explained that high cholesterol runs in our family and it was in my best interest to get this taken care of sooner than later. Begrudgingly, I made an appointment with my doctor and a week later I was getting checked out. It was that day, that test, and that urging of my mother that has changed my life forever. Never mind the weight loss, never mind my years of sports – it was those 2 vials of blood why I am even writing this blog. A few days after getting checked out my doctor called me up to tell me I had elevated cholesterol. I will never ever ever EVER forget that day. I was at work and already annoyed that my doctor was calling. I walked into the hallway and she explained that my cholesterol levels were 220 and if I didn’t get them down I would have to go on medicine. I was MAD – I didn’t want to be controlled by medicine. I said it had to be incorrect. How is that possible? I’m skinny? I never eat fast food? She said she would give me a year and if they didn’t get below 200 I would have no other choice.
(**Note: High Cholesterol is at 240 – anything below 200 is acceptable)

TURNING CLEAN…

Since I didn’t get much information from my doctor about how to get my levels down naturally, I had to figure this out myself. I couldn’t sleep that night – I felt like I was infected by something. Was I going to have a heart attack? I went to the store that night and bought oatmeal and promised to run in the morning. Since that day, I have had oatmeal every single morning – I kid you not. I started off for months with Quaker oats flavored variety packs, then low sugar oatmeal, and now a much more educated healthy morning of steel-cut oats 🙂 For months and months I did research on how to lower my cholesterol and made that a main goal. I still wasn’t up to par with working out on a regular basis –  but I was going about twice a week. Come Spring, I started going to hot yoga and spin class 3-4 times a week.

CLEAN TRANSFORMATION…

Heading into Summer I was feeling great physically and had started infusing clean food into my diet on a weekly basis. Nick and I were frequenting Whole Foods and Trader Joes for our grocery shopping instead of larger chains. After work, I wasn’t reading books anymore, I was nose deep into health magazines and blogs. I knew that if I was going to make clean eating work for us, I had to make this a way of life – not just a here and there type of thing. One day when Nick was out for the evening, I opened up every cupboard, our freezer and fridge and threw away every canned food, processed meat, pretzel, etc. I went to the grocery store and replaced our whole kitchen with fresh veggies and fruits, produce, etc.

When Nick walked through the door that evening he barely had time to take his shoes off before I said, “I’ve done something… before you go into the kitchen let me explain.” I explained how if we were going to take this step forward we would have to do it together and that I would take the lead in the beginning and make us our meals and try to make food healthy without him noticing it was “healthy food”. In the beginning there were a lot of questions, some failed meals and a lot of amazing ones too.

OUR KITCHEN TODAY AND LIVES TODAY…

Life is dramatically different nowadays and I can honestly thank that health scare I had. Fall 2012 was perhaps one of the biggest wins for me thus far, being rechecked at the doctor and scoring a 173 for my cholesterol level. All of the hard work and meal planning paid off and I am beyond excited to keep moving full steam ahead. I’ve since completely fallen in love with this lifestyle and even got certified through NASM as a personal trainer in Summer 2014. My list of fitness accomplishments continues to grow as I biked a portion of a triathlon relay in Spring 2014, ran a 5K in Fall 2013,  and I have competed in 4 bikini bodybuilding shows with the NPC since Spring 2013. I’m focused and committed to investing in mine and my husband’s health everyday with a balanced but flexible science backed diet and regular weight training. I am rooting that you have similar success as it’s up to you to make the life that you want and get the results that you deserve.