Exercise has been a part of my life from a young age. Even before running I was always an active kid. I still have fond memories of playing kickball in the street until the streetlights came on, riding bikes from house to house creating a pretend city, tag, hide and seek, ghost in the graveyard and the slightly more dangerous red rover. As I got a little older I started to get involved in organized sports, specifically gymnastics, slow pitch softball and soccer. In high school I was a member of the colorguard and participated in that and winterguard some in college. (I realize those two activities don’t sound all that active but I promise you they are). It was in college that I started fitness classes, yoga, and then running.
From the outside I appeared to be your average health conscious college student. I watched what I put on my plate in the dining hall, took the stairs instead of the elevator and when I shared an apartment off campus my senior year I often rode my bike or walked to campus instead of riding the bus. I attended fitness classes, used exercise equipment at the gym or ran 5-6 days a week, rarely breaking my set routine. I didn’t drink often, didn’t smoke and maintained a healthy weight. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines healthy as: having good health, not sick or injured, showing good health. (source) As seen using the naked eye, I was healthy.
Except I wasn’t.
I was teased often as a kid, but never for my weight. Still, something triggered my brain sometime in high school and I believed that I was not only overweight but fat. I began carefully watching fat grams, convinced that eating only low and no fat foods would help me lose weight. This only progressed over the years as I switched from counting fat grams to calories – calories consumed and calories exerted. After a few years, I could not only tell you the average number of calories a certain activity burned but also the number of calories in most foods. If I didn’t know it, I looked it up and memorized it. If I couldn’t look it up I grossly overestimated so I could be sure I burned it off later. Although I was never clinically diagnosed with an eating disorder, I had a disordered relationship with eating for the better part of 6-8 years. I was never physically underweight but I was obsessive. I was thin and I was in good physical shape, but I was depressed. I was hungry. I was anxious. I was the opposite of healthy. This isn’t to say the exercise didn’t have any benefit. It was still a great stress reliever and helped keep me fit and motivated even when my mindset about it wasn’t so healthy.
It took several years of therapy and self reflection before exercise transformed from a weight related obsession to something that could truly be considered healthy. I can comfortably say that now and for the last several years I truly feel healthy, both mentally and physically. I am of course grateful for the friends who helped me and the therapists that talked me through my issues, however I also recognize that change can’t happen until one is really ready. If I weren’t willing to make the necessary changes in my eating habits and the way that I viewed myself, I would more than likely still be suffering.
I was asked who I consider to be my “health hero”, i.e. who or what motivates me to lace up my running shoes, lay down the yoga mat or pedal the bike for a ride. I considered this for awhile, and at first I thought I might write about how I stay healthy for the twins because I want to set a good example, or because I want to be healthy long enough to see them and their children grow up. I thought about thanking my husband for being so supportive and for his many compliments that help keep me working hard. And while all of this is true, the person that really motivates me more than anything is me. I do it because I’ve learned that exercise helps me stay happy. I am less anxious and more energetic. I like the person that I am and feel comfortable in my own skin. It gives me my me time and an ability to work through worries in my head. It helped me stay sane during infertility.
It took many years, many tears and many mistakes but today I am healthy and today I am grateful that I took charge of my life and health. The person who keep me healthy? It’s me.
To read more of these stories, feel free to visit the community section of The American Recall Center, where they will be sharing more blogs on this topic. Posts will be going up at the end of the month.
Who is your health hero? Write about it!