A lot of you have asked me to post my story, my struggle with balance, with weight gain, and loss, and my journey back to health.
I have always been a small person. At just under 51, I have a small frame (my wrists are only 5 around!) and every little bit of weight gain shows. When I was younger, my mom made sure to provide me with enough fruits and vegetables, encouraged me to drink milk (for strong bones, which I understand- but now that it has been determined I have a slight lactose intolerance she understands why I resisted the glasses at dinner every night), introduced me to fresh fish, and didnt serve me a lot of red meat- because that was what she was taught, growing up, was healthy.
I stayed small during my younger years, always one of the smallest in my class.
Time went on, my sister was born, my schedule and parents schedules got busier, mealtimes became more of a hassle and we began to rely on convenience foods- lots of pasta (with butter and cheese!), unhealthy microwave meals, chicken nuggets, boxed cheesy alfredo noodles. This is how I ate- my mom let me choose my portions, and I consistently overate at meals, and snacked- a lot on unhealthy things such as ritz crackers and full fat cheese, ice cream and chips.
Yes, I know, miss nutrition fanatic really ate like this.
As I grew older, the fast metabolism I had as a young child began to slow and I started packing on the pounds, little by little-slowly but surely. By the time I was in 10th grade, I weighed a whopping 128 pounds on my 50 frame.
At my biggest:
I was always fairly active- I participated in martial arts from the age of 7-10, and then returned when I was just over 11, and stayed with it until a year after I received my black belt in Okinawin Shorin Ryu. I loved karate- but it was time consuming and I decided to take some time off to study and be with my friends my last year in high school.
During black belt training I was exercising a lot more, and I began to lose a bit of weight. Throughout most of my training, however, I still ate fairly unhealthily. About 6 months before I got my black belt, I decided to become a vegetarian, because I had read a couple of articles on how not eating meat was healthier, and I was uncomfortable with how big I had become. I had already stopped eating red meat back in 7th grade, when I saw the meet your meat video and was shocked at the horrible treatment of slaughtered animals in this country. When I became a vegetarian, I realized I needed to start paying even more attention to what I was eating because I was so active in training and needed to keep my energy up and my body nourished for my intense practices.
By the time I received my belt I had lost around 10 pounds. Still, I was overweight.
I decided to try out running on my own after I had pushed myself to run 3 miles in training. I felt confident in my running ability (at that point I was running a 12 minute mile) and started running on my own a few times a week.
To the extreme
Eating healthier and running at the same time forced my body to shed even more weight, and by the time I entered into my junior year of high school I weighed around 104 pounds. I felt good, everyone thought I looked great. Unfortunately, I did not feel I looked as good as everyone said I did. I was convinced I needed to lose more weight, that I would get more attractive the more weight I lost. My running became more frequent and I became more restrictive with my diet. Some days I would eat nothing but yogurt and fruit for breakfast, a salad with a few beans for lunch, and a soy burger with some steamed veggies for dinner. I participated in Lacrosse for the first time that spring- I was running strong and losing more weight. At the same time, I was not eating healthfully- I tried many fad quick diets such as the Master Cleanse (lasted 2 days) and even only eating fruit & veggies so I could look my best. I weighed 96 pounds at my junior prom, and I looked great.
Little did I know it wouldnt be long until I didnt look so great.
Over the summer, I trained for and successfully completed my first 10 mile run, the blessing of the fleet. It felt great to complete one of my lifelong goals, and I vowed to do it again.
The next year, I beat my time by 20 minutes- and my fathers time by 15.
I weighed 85 pounds.
My excessive exercising combined with extremely low caloric intake (sometimes as low as 800 calories a day, usually between 1100 and 1300) caused my weight to plummet. Throughout my senior year of high school my weight stayed low- I was a little less restrictive about my eating because at this point, teachers, friends, friends parents and even my school nurse questioned my weight, and were all convinced I had an eating disorder.
Im a runner, I told them. She eats, my friend defended me.
That was the point, where I was well below 90 pounds, my best friend Danielle sat me down at Starbucks and told me I needed to take a look in the mirror. I was way too skinny.
I knew it was true, but I still had a problem accepting the fact that I needed to eat more. I ate healthy, just not enough.
I started eating more, and gained a few pounds, but stayed skinny throughout my senior year of high school.
My senior prom, with my best friend and savior:
When I saw pictures of myself from my 18th birthday in New York City the summer following my senior year, I was shocked at how bony and frail I looked. I didnt want to look like a skeleton- I wanted to look fit, and healthy! I vowed to start eating more.
When I began college in the fall, I was gradually eating more- but it didnt help that I was a vegetarian, still fairly restrictive about my eating and the options on campus were not ideal. I started cooking for myself in my dorm- using what I could with only a mini fridge and a microwave, and eating food from the salad bar for lunch on campus. I thought I was eating more, but my caloric intake was still very low, and I was still running at least 4 miles every single morning. My weight dropped to 78 pounds. My doctor begged me to gain weight, and my mom agreed that I needed to as well. I had questionable problems with my liver, I had already been showing signs of reproductive issues, my hair was thin, my nails brittle and my skin ashy and dry.
I saw a nutritionist my doctor recommended to me, and unfortunately that was not the best idea.
The dietitian didnt understand my situation and encouraged me to do things like cut out all grains and eat smaller portions, causing me to lose the couple of pounds I had gained when I started trying.
I decided I had enough. I knew enough about nutrition, I knew how to eat healthy, and I knew I could take it in my own hands to start eating larger portions of healthy, energy dense foods and gain the weight on my own.
I started going home every weekend and cooking bigger meals for my family.
I started my blog , and began writing in it frequently mid-January. Making the public commitment to gain weight was the best choice I have ever made to become healthy. I started running a little less and incorporating some strength training into my diet. I started eating lots of energy dense foods- nuts, beans, oils, and larger portions to help me gain weight.
It was a long, hard struggle, my I managed to gain 12 pounds in 4 months.
After my initial gain:
During that time I dabbled in vegan cooking, and discovered a love for many new types of foods and cuisines. I began to cherish my time in the kitchen and start to realize my passion for cooking.
Shortly after my initial weight gain ( I was at 90 pounds) I left the country for a study abroad program in Calabria, Italy.
I made the promise to myself that I would continue to eat healthfully; in the sense that I was getting enough fruits, vegetables, dairy, etc- but not restrict myself at all because I WAS IN ITALY! This was the opportunity of a lifetime; and it was only a month- what damage could I do?
6.5 pounds of damage, that was.
I did eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches, and got in exercising by walking and rediscovered my love of yoga.
However, I let myself eat gelato every day, and stuff myself every night at dinner which, sometimes having as many as two desserts- PLUS all the vino and birra I was able to drink, it was obvious I would pack on some pounds.
But almost 7? That was a shocker when I got back. I hadnt been running, and for the first time in the last 3 years I realized I dont need to run to be fit. In fact, I HATED running every day- it became more of a chore than anything, and I dreaded days when I didnt feel so well and forced myself to run anyway.
Italy completely changed my perspective in that, I realized you have to do what is best for your body, by listening to your body and giving it what it wants. The people there dont go crazy about calories or carbs, they eat what they want, when they want to-in moderation. The Mediterranean diet- full of fresh picked fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fresh made pastas, gnocchi and bread, olive oil- all natural, all healthy in moderation (fruits and veggies more of course!) They dont run every day or go to the gym for 5 hours- yes, some go to the gym, but they get more of their exercise naturally- walking or biking everywhere. I loved this way of life, their easygoing mindset, and knew that I was forever changed in the way I thought about my body.
When I got back to the U.S. getting back into eating healthy was no problem. But I did have to reduce portion sizes and I struggled with the realization that I was bigger than before. Everyone told me I looked great- but it took me a while to accept my new body, and find balance in my new eating habits and exercise.
I started running again; but less than before. I split my time between running, walking and using the elliptical machine. I started strength training in hopes of gaining muscle- which I have. I lost some body fat and gained muscle, and Im hoping to continue that process.
This I moved in with my roommate, and living on my own, having my own kitchen has been the best thing thats happened to me since I started cooking for myself. Im in charge of buying my own food, cooking fresh, balanced meals as much as possible and it has been a wonderful learning process. I started eating meat again and realized that it was one of the best decisions I could have made for my body. I believe my body needs small amounts of complete animal proteins in order to feel energized and fulfilled, and Ive never felt better.
Over the holidays I did gain some weight; as was expected, and it is definitely hard to look at the scale and see it up a few pounds after being so low for so long. But my ongoing plan is acceptance and balance- accepting my gain and refinding balance in my healthy habits to slowly return to my happy weight- the 97 pounds Ive maintained since I returned from Italy.
Lately Ive been getting into cooking more, and seriously preparing myself for a career in the culinary arts. Im not sure if I want to be a chef or a baker yet, all I know is food is my future. Nothing makes me happier than making myself and others delicious, healthful foods that nourish the body and soul.
My current diet interest is in Ayurveda. It is the 5,000 year old sister science to yoga, which I am a dedicated practitioner of, called the science of life. I am a vata-pitta and am attempting to incorporate more dosha friendly recipes into my diet to continue on my quest for complete balance in my life, and my eating habits.
I want to be as healthy and happy as can be, and I feel better than I ever have before- I think Im well on my way to that goal!