For many, the new year signifies a time for growth, new beginnings, and fresh starts. It's a time to set the tone for the year ahead by making resolutions, setting intentions, and creating lists of goals. All for the sole purpose of improvement and to manifest the life of one's dreams. Over the years, like millions of people worldwide, I have made numerous commitments towards having a healthier lifestyle.
As a yo-yo dieting, backsliding vegan, I have gained and lost weight many times. At my healthiest, I was a strict pescatarian who worked out six days a week and ran four miles a day. I logged every meal, so as not to exceed my 1400-a-day calorie allotment. On my cheat days, I did extra workouts to make up for whatever I ate. And I weighed myself twice a day, once in the morning and at night, to make sure the number on the scale did not move.
Over time, though, I became burnt out with that lifestyle and began to shy away from it. I found that it wasn't sustainable because of the restrictions that I had placed on myself. That and, it was no longer fun. So I traded in my workout time for unlimited hours on the couch watching TV and relying on meal delivery apps instead of cooking. Which did a number on my waistline, causing me to balloon to my heaviest weight of 260 pounds and a size 18/20.
All of that changed last year when I decided to be more intentional about my health. This time around, I opted for small actionable goals, rather than harsh food restrictions and hours in the gym. I ditched the scale, relying solely on my clothes and waist beads as indicators of my weight loss. And I vowed to not take any before and after photos. This weight loss journey was personal.
In the beginning, I committed to exercising 4-5 days a week for 20-30 minutes. Doing this helped me find enjoyable workouts that I could quickly do first thing in the morning before work. As far as food, I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted.
This was key because I wasn't as hyper-focused on how much I could or could not eat. It allowed me to enjoy my food without shame or guilt or waiting until my cheat day for a treat. It also helped me in making healthier food choices. So while I knew that I could eat whatever I wanted when I wanted to, I didn't. And on those days when I wanted to eat junk, I allowed myself to.
Those small changes caused me to view working out and weight loss differently. Finding the fun in it and making it a true lifestyle change. I finally discovered my groove and started enjoying the changes in my body along the way.
A few weeks into my newfound healthy living journey, I began to crave working out. It became as much of a routine for me as brushing my teeth. So I decided to work out every day until my body told me not to. As fate would have it, for Lent, a former classmate made a post on Instagram saying that she would work out every day until Easter and invited others to join her. Since at the time I was already around 30 days of nonstop exercise, I made the decision to keep going. This time adding yoga to my nighttime routine a few days out of the week, as I found that it helped with releasing everything from the day and aided in my sleep patterns.
I reached my 100th day on May 4th. Now, I could have kept going, but I decided to stop so that I could revel in what I had just done. Over the course of three and a half months, I had gone from four years of no physical activity to successfully completing 100 days of exercise.
I transformed my entire approach to working out to not something that I have to do, but rather, something that I get to do. Not to mention, I went from a size 18/20 to a 14/16. One of my biggest takeaways from that experience was to honor my body by showing it gratitude. For every pushup, plank, down dog, or mile walked, it was a form of gratitude. Gratitude for not breaking down on me. Gratitude for going that extra step. Gratitude for every function that performed the way that it was supposed to.
Another takeaway was that working out is a form of self-care. A tool to help with issues surrounding our mental health. A way to boost our self-confidence. A reminder to find our happiness.
As Black women, we live some of the most sedentary lifestyles, so regular physical activity is paramount. In addition to what we eat, consistent exercise is a form of preventative medicine. So you can't fully practice self-care if you're neglecting to move these beautiful vessels that house and carry us each day.
In the beginning, I said that my weight loss journey was personal. It was more than losing a few pounds and going down a couple of sizes. It was the opportunity to get reacquainted with my body by giving it the grace to move as it saw fit. And to show love to it for never failing me, even at times when I have failed it.
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