Here is my STRENGTH journey, the highs and the lows. As I am about to write, I am guaranteed to shed some tears. But that is okay, its part of the process. I want to share with you openly and honestly….so here goes everything.
I found my inner STRENGTH in the 3rd grade. I learned early on if I really wanted something to go for it and give it my all. I wanted to play basketball so bad that I practiced the whole school year and summer so I could try out for the team in 4th grade. We lived in an apartment complex and every day I would practice shooting the basketball on top of the roof. I dribbled my little heart out, practiced my shots and would bounce the ball off the side of the house (I might have even broken a window) to get better on my passing. So 4th grade came, I tried out and made the team. My little girl dream became a reality!! I quickly learned I had trouble with getting overheated, I would hyperventilate and usually end up with a severe headache after games. But that didn’t stop me, I played hard each and every year through the 8th grade.
The Beginning of Self-Esteem Issues
My love for basketball never faded but I found myself seeking out other things, like smoking, drugs, drinking and boys. I got myself in quite a lot of trouble starting from 8th grade until I graduated high school. To say I was a confused, temperamental teenager was an understatement. I was lost and had very little guidance.
My body developed at a young age and I gained a lot of attention from older boys. Because I felt boys were drawn to me for my body instead of my fun personality or genuine caring heart, I began to develop low self-esteem issues. I felt in order for a boy to like me, my body had to look a certain way. I worked very hard to achieve this “thin/lean” look. I was constantly exercising. I became obsessed with having a perfect body.
At some point in the 10th grade something switched in my mind and I began restricting my food intake. I would eat just enough to satisfy anyone around so that I did not cause attention to myself. I began to get so disgusted with food that when I did eat, I immediately purged it. I got very thin during this process. But I never thought my body looked good enough.
I struggled with my disordered eating for about 3-4 years. I finally got the wakeup call I needed when my mom took me to the doctor because I could not stop vomiting, I was weak and very frail. I never admitted to the doctor what was going on, but I have a feeling he knew. My mom had no clue.
I knew I had to stop this or I could very easily lose my life. I took it day by day, I stopped purging but still had days I felt the need to restrict. Slowly but surely I dug myself out of this very deep dark hole. I was so scared to exercise again after getting a handle on my disordered eating. I thought I would fall right back into my old habits and I didn’t trust myself.
The Biggest Life Lesson
In 2001 my eyes were peeled wide open on how nutrition plays a huge part in process of healing our bodies. My mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. She and I didn’t have the best relationship while I was in high school, shocker right? But once I moved out we developed an unbreakable bond. Her diagnoses was grim, but I was determined that we were going to beat this. I poured my heart and soul and then some into researching how to overcome cancer with nutrition. And how to lessen the side effects of the radiation and chemo.
Most people with her diagnoses do not make it past 6 months. She fought hard for 19 months and I was by her side the entire time giving encouragement and even demanding she fight harder. I know for a fact the nutrition and supplements that we implemented helped her fight for as long as she did. However, in February 2003 her body gave out, she could no longer tolerate any more treatments. The doctor called me and said no more.
That was the end of her fight, for the next month she laid mostly unconscious and medicated. I watched her go from a vibrant full of life person to a skeletal version of herself. There were times she would wake and hold a conversation but it wasn’t for long at all. I spent weeks beside her in bed, I did not want to leave her.
This was the most traumatic yet wakening experience of my life to date. I lost my best friend and my mom. I had to dig really deep to find my inner STRENGTH to keep getting out of bed each morning knowing I could no longer pick up the phone and call her daily.
My mom suffered with stomach issues all her life, constantly bloated, gassy and unexpected bouts of diarrhea. I cannot help but wonder if by not treating these issues ultimately caused the cancer. A question I ponder often. I began looking at my own health and the stomach issues I had been dealing with since my early high school years. My mom passed at the young age of 43. As I approached my early 30s I started to take a look at our family health history and it is not the best. We have a little bit of everything from Cancer, Heart Disease, and Diabetes to Thyroid issues.
About 5 years ago I started to eliminate food groups from my diet to see what was causing me to rely on having a bathroom close by after food literally hit my stomach. I tried eliminating gluten first, but after a week I saw no change. Next I eliminated dairy and low and behold I discovered I was lactose intolerant. What a relief to discover this. I am sure some of you are thinking right now, if you ever discover you are lactose intolerant that would be the end of you! Great news, you can take a lactose pill and still eat yo cheese!!
Finding my physical and mental STRENGTH
In the summer of 2012, I decided this would be the year to get my body back. After having my son 8 years prior, it would be about damn time. I met a guy one night while out dancing with a girlfriend, I believe the same day I made this statement of getting back in shape.
Enter whirlwind of running and restricting food. Circling back around to I still had major body confidence issues and thought the only way for this guy to like me was to get back in shape STAT!!
He made comments about my body and encouraged my exercising. Because I never dealt with my confident issues I stumbled hard into a 9 month very toxic relationship that was purely physical based.
When he gave me positive feedback on my body changes it fueled my fire even more. I’ll chalk this up to a MAJOR learning experience and I can’t hate on the situation because I gained my strongest self out of it.
Running was no longer working, in order for my body to keep changing I had to run harder and longer and I hated it. Then I discovered 30 day HIIT challenges. This type of High Intensity Interval Training included weights and I fell deeply in love with weights.
So many things occurred from discovering that I loved to lift heavy shit. I found the STRENGTH I needed to respect myself and my body to end the relationship. I gain confidence in myself that I never thought was possible. I learned to be happy with ME and was very content on being alone. My focus shifted back to making the best life possible for me and my son. Literally everything changed when I started lifting weights.
Learning to listen to my body
It was time to start looking at my nutrition again, I was back to eating as I normally would. I was building muscle, I could feel it. But the “fluffiness” would not budge. I was constantly bloated and gassy. I decided to try a no grain diet and see if the bloat would subside. I was about 3-4 weeks into eating no grains and one evening I made my son muffin bars with spelt flour. I decided try them out, you know quality control check :).
I had 4 small bars and they were delicious! About 30 minutes later I thought I was dying and my stomach was going to explode wide open. I bloated up as though I looked pregnant. I was in pain all night and stayed bloated a good portion of the week. Holly hell, did I just discover I was gluten intolerant too?
I made it a point to go back to my no grain diet, but then one night I was making pasta for my son. MMMM pasta, I decided to try a bite and make sure it was done. One tiny bite. Here we go again, 30 minutes later I am doubled over in the kitchen with so much pain and here comes the bloat. Okay…okay, it’s confirmed.
I wondered about the other grains I was avoiding, did I have issues with those? After I recovered from the pasta stint I tried rice, oats and quinoa. They caused me no issues. So I started avoiding gluten at all cost. I was managing my lactose intolerance with a pill and avoiding gluten, but why am I still gassy and bloated?!?
One day while working I was listening to a fitness podcast. The lady being interviewed was discussing her intolerance to gluten and that it wasn’t the gluten itself, it was the carbohydrate in the gluten that caused her issues.
She mentioned she follows the low FODMAP guide and rarely has any issues. I immediately googled this FODMAP thing she was talking about and reviewed it. I went through each food listed under the high category and thought about how it made me feel. Wow what a shocker, I was sensitive to so many foods listed in the high category.
Here’s the dialogue I had with myself as I went through the list of foods:
- I eat a ton of mushrooms in my eggs each morning, followed by gas.
- Garlic and onions, oh wow they are in just about everything I make.
- Apples make my stomach literally roll.
- Oh is that why I get gassy when I chew gum because of the type of artificial sweetener?
- And now it makes sense why those peanut energy balls cause me such distress, it’s from the honey!
- Beans and hummus, oh let’s not EVEN go there!
- Avocados, ok I am starting to get sad but yes cause me gas.
- And I love asparagus, but again I get gassy.
I could go on and on but you get the idea. It all made sense. And from that point I started following the low FODMAP guide as well. What a blessing I happened to be listening to that particular podcast! I still can’t help but wonder if this was the root cause of my mom’s issues as well. I’ll never know but hopefully this will help others that have digestive issues!
Discovering my passion
Here is how nutrition played a huge part in my workouts and my physique. I began reading everything I could get my hands on in regards to nutrition. I realized I was not eating enough to support my day let alone my work outs. I had a desire that I wanted to be a Health Coach. But first I wanted to see if I could be successful with my own body and what it would be like to be a client of a Health Coach.
I found an online company that gave me my macro numbers and I began to reverse diet myself out of starvation mode. I gained about 5 pounds in a three month process but from there I had no idea where to go.
I had just started a training program called Strong Curves by Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis. I followed Bret on Instagram and came across a coach that seemed to resonate with me, Sohee Lee with Soheefit. She is an online Nutrition and Fitness Coach. We started slowly reducing my carb and fat intake while leaving protein the same.
I was hitting the weights hard in the gym with progressive overload, meaning increasing weight each week or getting in more reps. I went on leisure walks while my son was at soccer practice, but no cardio other than that.
Over a span of 8 months I watch my body transform and get strong! I had a huge mindset shift that I was no longer trying to lose fat, I just wanted to be as strong as I possibly could be. I discovered my passion, I loved learning all about nutrition and how it makes our bodies work. I decided this is it, I want to be a Health Coach. I want to help others get healthy and strong too!
How STRENGTH training changed every aspect of my life
Focusing on STRENGTH has changed my life in SO many ways. Let’s start with body confidence since I have had major issues with this in the past. Gaining STRENGTH has given me straight up confidence in myself overall.
I met the love of my life one summer day at the pool while hanging out with friends. The next day we went on a very casual date. I had no desire to “fix” myself up or be anyone other than who I was…period. I did not put on an ounce of make up or even fix my crazy wavy hair. I showed up, this is who I am and basically thought he’ll either like me or he won’t. I was fine with either outcome.
STRENGTH has shown my son a different mother all together. I have the STRENGTH and energy to be gone with him most nights of the week so that he can participate in Kung Fu and Soccer. He knows that I am strong and is very proud and brags about me. Although he does make statements that he misses my fluffy tummy and it’s now too hard and not as comfortable to lay on LOL!
STRENGTH has given me determination that I can take on what I need to daily in order to help support our family. Here is what a typical day in my world looks like. Building my passion aka business of helping others with their nutritional needs, getting in a full day of work, working in a STRENGTH training session, helping my son with his homework, running him to and from his various sports and coming home to catch up with my love before turning in for the night. There is no way I could do half of this without having my nutrition in check and getting in a workout, they both go hand in hand when it comes to my daily energy level.
As a woman, being strong is very empowering. Knowing if you needed to lift something heavy, you are more than capable of doing so. Carrying in all your groceries in one trip is pretty awesome too. And being able to lift the same amount or more than the guy standing next you in the gym makes you feel like a total badass!
STRENGTH IS A GAME CHANGER IN LIFE, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!!