'I made one small nutrition or fitness tweak per day to transform my health'

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'I made 1 nutrition tweak per day for my health'Instagram

I struggled with my weight for most of my life. I slowly started gaining weight around the age of six and was always described as the “chubby” child. But I started gaining much faster when I turned 16 and could drive. I loved the freedom and the control of being able to drive and buy whatever food I wanted, whenever I wanted.

I gained about 100 pounds (45kg) throughout high school and continued to gain off and on up until I started my health journey in the spring of 2022. Up until that point, I lived a life with little to no movement and indulged freely in the foods I craved. I became comfortable in my discomfort, so it took me a while to finally get to the place where I accepted that I couldn’t keep living that way.

The heaviest weight I saw on the scale was 398 pounds (180kg) in the autumn of 2021 when I was 32 years old. Interestingly, though, I didn’t experience health problems related to having obesity, much to my surprise. I always expected to develop diabetes or high blood pressure but somehow didn’t end up with either of those. I often used my seemingly normal blood test results as an excuse to keep living the way I was living, even though I knew I wasn’t properly energising or nourishing my body.

I also thought my mental and emotional health was solid. I was proud of the fact that I made an effort to be healthy mentally and emotionally, even though I knew I was neglecting my health physically. The truth is, I was in denial.

It wasn’t until I started my health journey in the spring of 2022 that I realised I wasn’t as healthy emotionally as I thought I was.

That is when I finally understood how all of the facets of health are tied together. Neglecting one can hurt them all just as much as nurturing one can help them all.

On March 15th, 2022—10 days before my 33rd birthday—I went to Disneyland with my sister's family and this was the turning point for me. I knew the day was going to be difficult because I was the biggest size I had ever been going to an amusement park. Being an aunt has been the greatest joy of my life, and I didn’t want to let my size keep me from experiencing Disneyland with my nephew.

Within only a few hours at the park, I got a migraine, I had back pain, my feet hurt and I was profusely sweating. I spent the last part of the day by myself, sitting at a table with my head down and eyes closed to try to keep from throwing up from my migraine while my sister and her family were enjoying the park. I realised: I don’t want to live a life where a day at the “happiest place on earth” is actually the most miserable place for me. I don’t want to be burdened by just existing. I want to be free to do all the things I want to do.

I knew if I didn’t change my direction, I would end up where I was heading and it wasn’t what I wanted for my future. That is when I decided I needed to start changing my daily habits to become healthy from the inside out and to bring me closer to the life I dreamed of for myself.

I started out by focusing on making one nutrition change per day and eating whole, unprocessed foods.

My sister and brother-in-law became intentional years ago about their overall health and the food they consumed to help my brother-in-law manage (and heal) from multiple autoimmune diseases. I learned a lot from them and their focus on eating whole and unprocessed foods primarily sourced from healthy animals from local farms. I knew this would be the type of eating I wanted to explore once I was finally ready to change my habits for good.

I love eating this way because it makes sense to me. It makes sense that foods from healthy animals and the Earth would fuel me well and provide me with the nutrients I need. I’ve also found so many foods in this category that I enjoy eating and genuinely like the taste of.

I haven’t cut out or completely restricted any food groups—and that’s why this way of eating has been able to be sustainable for me. I wouldn’t have been able to continue with this new way of living for this long if I was depriving myself of the foods I enjoy. We hear it so often, but moderation truly is an important piece of making a change like this successful long term.

This is the first time I ever went into aiming to lose weight slowly and practically. Rather than drastically changing everything about my life on a Monday or the first of the month, I started making small changes immediately.

One of those small changes was to eat one nutritious food a day. There were so many days where I didn’t eat anything beneficial for me. Since I knew I wanted to get healthy and not just lose weight, I wanted to start by adding more nutritious foods into my life. I also knew it needed to feel simple and easy for me or I wouldn’t want to do it. Eggs were the nutritious food that I focused on adding to my life at the beginning and I still consume them daily. From there, I continued to add in more nutrient-dense foods as it seemed doable for me.

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Another part of my eating plan that has worked for me is tracking my calorie intake.

When I first started, I just wanted to focus on being more mindful of the foods I was consuming. I started logging my food in a journal without tracking the calories. I did that for the first six weeks and was able to lose weight by just adding in this mindfulness practice. I decided I wanted a little more control over my results, even though there were still so many things that could skew them, so after those six weeks I started tracking my calories.

Many people feel that tracking and weighing their food is overwhelming, but that hasn’t been my personal experience. It has felt like an educational tool. I never thought or cared about the calorie content, or the other macronutrients like the amount of protein, in foods that I ate. It’s been beneficial to pay attention to which foods fill me up, fuel me better, and why.

I also found a way to move my body intentionally every day from the beginning.

I started with a step goal of 8,000 steps every day and broke that up throughout the day. When I began, I could only walk about 10 consecutive minutes at a time before my body would start to ache, so that’s what I did.

I continued to add in little one- to five-minute walks throughout the day. I also would march in place to get my steps in which often felt silly but I reminded myself that any movement is better than no movement. From there, I continued to add more time to my walk as I had more energy and stamina. Walking was my main form of exercise and movement for the first few months.

I eventually started exploring other ways to get in exercise, including strength training and pickleball.

I attended a wellness retreat almost three months into my journey called Skyterra Wellness where I worked out with trainers and tried strength training for the first time. This is also where I learned how to play pickleball and fell in love with it! I didn’t think it was possible for me to find a physical activity that I would actually crave, but that is what pickleball has become for me. I also added in hiking and swimming as well.

I still intentionally move my body every single day because it makes me feel stronger, healthier and gives me more energy. A typical week of exercise for me now includes two to three strength training sessions with my trainer and the other days will include either a long walk, a hike, pickleball, or swimming.

I also still utilise the marching in place that I did at the beginning of my journey except now I jog in place. If there is a day that I don’t want to leave the house because of the weather or whatever reason, I know I can get that movement in right where I am.

Focusing on gaining healthy habits as opposed to losing weight made my wellness journey a success.

I let go of the all-or-nothing mindset by aiming for consistency in my habits over perfection of their execution. I accepted this as a lifestyle change rather than a temporary diet just to reach a goal. And I’ve learned that motivation is something that happens to you, but discipline is something you choose.

While I’ve lost over 200 pounds (90kg) in total, this journey has been more about feeling good than about looking good. It’s more about gaining health than it is about losing weight. It’s not a smaller body I’m after, it’s a bigger life I’m chasing. And that’s exactly what I’m getting.

My life is so much better now at 34 years old, but it's not because I'm closer to society's standard of beauty. It's because I have so much more of the things that truly matter. Fuller experiences, richer relationships, new opportunities. I feel healthy, I feel strong, I feel capable, I feel confident, I feel joyful and I feel free! That is what this is about for me. I am no more worthy to live the life of my dreams now than I was before, but I am more able to.

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