Let’s start the week off with some inspiration!
Journey to Fit features an F&F reader with an inspirational weight loss or weight gain story to share. The men and women featured in Journey to Fit each paved their own path to a healthy lifestyle, and I am thrilled they are willing to share their journeys on my blog. Everyone has a unique story and approach to healthy living, and each person had to start somewhere. I hope you find this series inspiring. Enjoy!
Today I am featuring Jackie! I went to college in Providence with Jackie, and I’m thrilled to share her story on F&F today.
Jackie, tell my F&F readers a little about yourself.
Hi! I’m Jackie, a 29 year old pre-k teacher living in Baltimore, Maryland. I’m originally from New Jersey, I went to college at Providence (where Athena and I met!), and I moved to Maryland after college to teach and live with my best friend from high school. I taught elementary special education for five years and am currently in my third year teaching pre-kindergarten at the same elementary school. I love traveling, spending time with my family and friends, and volunteering my time to teach sailing in the spring/summer.
When did your fitness journey begin? Was there a specific moment or event that triggered it for you?
My fitness journey is a long one! I swam competitively in middle school, high school, and for 2 years of college. During that time, I had a fairly muscular build, but I was never ‘skinny’. I was in awesome shape, working out at least 2.5-3 hours a day, 6 days a week. After I stopped swimming, it was much harder to stay in shape. My muscular build turned soft as college cafeteria food and beer caught up with me. I would work out…but when things got busy, I didn’t go to the gym because it clearly wasn’t a priority. Also, this was the first time in as long as I could remember where I had TIME and didn’t need to plan everything around practices.
After college, my first couple years of teaching were stressful and exhausting. I was dealing with that stress by making poor food choices and going too many happy hours. I would try to go to the gym but again, when things got busy or I was just too tired from dealing with small children and a terrible boss all day, I didn’t go. I then started grad school part time… so I would work, go to class until 10pm twice a week, and do grad school homework on the weekends while still trying to have a social life and navigate my way through living in a new city.
Several years ago, I wasn’t feeling comfortable in my own skin and wasn’t fitting into any of my clothes, so I decided to do something about it. I joined Weight Watchers and lost almost 40 pounds simply by being mindful about portion control and making better food choices. The program made me do some serious self-reflecting about my relationship with food, which was needed. The WW program, however, is very driven by the scale. After a while, I was starting to obsess over the numbers. I was planning out my meals and counting points, but soon that’s all I would think about, and I knew that wasn’t healthy either. Once I fell off the wagon, the pounds started to creep back again. I wasn’t in control, and I gained almost all of the weight back.
Last fall, after the beginning of the school year, I decided it was time to make a lifestyle change. I was now living by myself, loved my current position at work, and I had the time and energy to devote to making a commitment to MYSELF about being healthy. Things just mentally and emotionally felt different, in a good way. I re-joined the gym and started going to group fitness classes (spin/RPM and Body Pump) every single morning before work and on also weekends when I was in town.
I don’t own a scale (see above, re: obsessing over numbers), but will check my weight every so often. My starting weight was 260, and I am around 180 now. I still have weight to lose and don’t have a ‘target’ number in mind–I am concentrating on doing what feels right for me and my body.
What lifestyle changes have you made since the beginning of your journey?
1. Exercising consistently. I learned (the hard way) that for me to keep the weight off, I need to exercise often. I was too tired and had other commitments that kept coming up after teaching to keep a consistent exercise routine for the afternoon, so now I take a 6am class every weekday morning, no excuses.
2. Learning my triggers. Doing Weight Watchers helped me really look at my food choices and THINK about what I was putting in my mouth. I learned that some foods I simply have to stay away from or not even have in my apartment because it’s a trigger. Once I start, it’s very difficult for me to stop. (Pasta, sweets, soda).
3. Eating cleaner. It was eye-opening to me how when I started to eat cleaner foods, I felt better almost immediately. I try as much as possible to cut out processed food, extra carbs, (bad) sugar, and artificial sweeteners. 2 cups of coffee with half and half is my daily processed splurge because some sort of caffeine is needed to work with 4 year olds all day, every day!
Did you encounter any challenges along the way, and how did you overcome them?
Honestly, every day is a challenge. I have to actively make choices all the time, and that’s not always easy or fun. I had to learn to literally walk away when the temptation for food was too much. I had to learn to control myself in social situations or when I was out. Waking up at 5:00 am to go out in the freezing cold during a terrible winter was many times not pleasant, but I did it. It was also challenging to not see immediate results. In the beginning, I was working so hard, but my body wasn’t changing yet. I knew I was losing weight the healthy way, but it was difficult at times to just have faith and not give up.
Aside from the weight loss, what has rewarded you? What differences do you notice in how you felt then versus how you feel now?
Physically, I have found that I have more energy. I’m a better teacher because I come to school refreshed, awake, and ready to start the day, having already had my workout. Emotionally, the way I feel about myself has changed drastically. I’m not embarrassed by the way I look, so I don’t avoid mirrors or dread clothes shopping like I once did. When I first started to lose weight and people would compliment me, I would thank them but think, ‘that means they noticed that I was bigger before.’ Now I am in a much better place mentally, and when people tell me I look great or ask what I’ve been doing, I sincerely thank them and take the complements to heart. It’s amazing to know that the people who you love care about you, want to see you succeed, and be happy and healthy.
Other small things have been rewarding too, like being a size where I can shop in regular stores, being able to borrow clothes from my friends, and having people notice my progress. I recently had a former co-worker not even recognize me!?
What are the next steps in your journey?
I’d love to get more into running. Growing up I did a pretty great job of choosing the one sport (swimming) that did not involve running! Whenever we had to do cross training with running, I will tell you that it was not a pretty sight. In the past couple months, I’ve slowlyyyy started to become more comfortable running and over the summer when the weather warmed up, I was actually excited to get out and run.
What tips would you offer others you are trying to lose weight or exercise more?
1. Give yourself some grace. No one is perfect. Bad days happen, pizza happens, beer happens, LIFE happens. And when those things happen (because all of them will, I promise), be accountable, take responsibility, and then move on. Tomorrow is a new day.
2. Don’t be scared to try new things. I never thought I would be able to make it through a spin class, and now I do it at least 3 times a week. I tried yoga this year and really enjoyed it. I never, EVER thought I would be a person who runs outside, but this season, I got over it, laced up my new sneakers (that I won from this blog!), and tried it. Was I fast? Did I look good? Was I wearing the right ‘gear’ for any of those activities? Probably not, but I was doing a lot better than people sleeping or sitting on their couches. Give anything a try because you never know what you’ll like or be good at!
3. Set a routine and follow it. Don’t have time to go to the gym in the afternoon? Go in the morning. Have to take care of the kids before work? Go to the gym straight from work in the afternoon. I had too much going on after school to consistently be able to make it to the gym, so I decided I would go in the morning. Growing up I often got up early for swim practice, so it was not a jarring thing to see the 5 o’clock hour every day. I quickly found the group fitness classes and instructors that I enjoyed, and doing so helped me keep this routine of going every weekday morning for 7 months. It’s fun to see familiar faces at 5:30 in the morning and the instructors help keep me motivated.
4. Get out of your own way. The mind is a powerful yet tricky thing. Think you can’t run another 5 minutes? You can. Think you can’t lift that bar for 8 more reps? You can. Think you can’t put on a gear higher during a spin class climb? You can. Think you can’t walk away from the delicious looking bagels in the coffee room at work? You can. Think you can’t wake up at 5 o’clock every single morning? You can. Get over yourself and just do it.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks so much Athena for allowing me to contribute to this series! I am usually a private person when it comes to this stuff, so it was a big step for me to put myself out there to all you wonderful F&F readers. I hope anyone who is just beginning or is struggling with their own journey can use my story as an inspiration and motivation. A HUGE thank you goes out to all of my family, friends, co-workers, and especially my fitness instructors for always being positive and helping me along the way. I certainly could not have done it without you all.
Thank you for sharing, Jackie! I’m so happy you shared your story here, and you are definitely an inspiration to my readers!
Readers, leave Jackie some love! She deserves it!
If you or someone you know has a weight loss or weight gain story to share, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to feature you. This series will run as long as I receive enough content to keep it going.
For past Journey to Fit posts: