In all seriousness though, this path to health, while supported by my family has been a mostly solo journey. Growing up, I never played sports, not even kickball. I got cold sweats when it came time to play co-ed games in gym glass. Because not only was I uncoordinated, but I was also a daydreamer. I read books, I wrote and told stories. Heaven forbid someone asked me to shoot baskets with them, but by God I could recite the presidents, helping verbs, and Robert Frost. I performed in theater. Pronounced thee-ah-tah. I memorized Shakespeare for fun and wore glasses. I was hopeless. It's a wonder I didn't get my head stuck in the toilet. I credit the invention of boobs and contact lenses and quarterly trips to The Gap with saving me from a life as a complete nerd.
To make matters even worse, I ate to fuel my emotions. Who doesn't on occasion? But I had a real lifelong habit of this. For most of my life, at the first signs of stress, I didn't want to stick my face in my pillow and cry, nooooooo, I wanted to bury it in Haagen Dazs until I'd forgotten all about whatever it was that made me upset to begin with. But, like most forms of emotional appeasement, that never really worked. It only created a vicious cycle which at the time I was able to recognize, although dealing with it was another battle. What I didn't realize until more recently though was the physiological effect this was having on my body. It wasn't until I became very sick with my eye and felt worse than I ever have and then learned I had gluten allergies that I realized the cycle of sugar addiction, insulin fluctuations, and internal inflammation I was subjecting myself to.
At the beginning of my Road to Wellville, I begin working out with a good friend of mine, April. Now, outside of donning the occasional eighties leg warmer to play Jane Fonda with my mom as a kid, and being forced by a very manly lady to run a mile in P.E., I had never really "worked out". My method for losing weight had always been to stop eating very much and ingest some chemical "aids". It worked for short periods of time but because I was causing my body to fast, whenever I went back to my regular habits, it all came back. Hello Haagen Dazs.
April and I have very similar physical makeups and so working out together was great because we basically had the same goals. We began following a cardio and weight routine laid out in one of my (now) favorite fitness magazines, Fitness RX. After the first workout, I wanted to throw up, and neither one of us could easily make it down the stairs our legs were so sore. But, we did it again. And again. And after only a few weeks I noticed such amazing changes in the shape of my body that I was forever hooked. I can only credit April's sparkling personality and sordid tales with keeping me motivated, well that and the fact that my dad no longer made beeping sounds when I backed up. No seriously, he did.
So, fast forward a few years. We moved to DC and I found it very difficult to work out without a partner. So, I pretty much just didn't. I lost weight by dieting and walking but found that while I could "pour" my body into a pair of skinny jeans, it just didn't look too good without said jeans. I guess that's what they call "skinny fat". I needed to add muscle and the only thing that was going to work was to do strength training. So I joined a gym close to my house and tried a class called Body Pump that came highly recommended by several people working there. They told me I should take Johanna's class, that it was really good. So I decided to give it a try. I knew that first day that if the line of people waiting to take it was any indication of how it was going to be that I was in for a very difficult treat.
Johanna showed up and let me tell you, if I was a hater, I'd hate her. She is so beautiful and has the most amazingly sculpted body but it is her spirit that won me over the most. In the beginning those classes ( high intensity strength training so it burns like cardio) left me so sore and weak, I could hardly move, but her smiles and words of encouragement during every class helped me to pick myself back up and return. In my head I dubbed her "The Happy Drill Sergeant" . She encouraged me to start taking her cycling class following the body pump class and so I did. I basically just took whatever class she was teaching and in a few weeks time I began to notice great changes again. Don't get me wrong, it was HARD for me. I never walked into the gym and breezed through any of it. But, I did learn to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. And then it was time for us to move...to Guam. I panicked a bit and frantically searched the internet for a gym in Guam that taught similar classes, and lo and behold, I FOUND ONE! I was deeply relieved, but in the months between our leaving D.C., staying with family, and living in limbo in Guam hotels, I found some of the weight I had lost. MOM's COOKING! ROOM SERVICE!
And then I got sick again, and we all know this one: STEROIDS! By they time I was finally well enough to start working out again, I was twenty pounds heavier than when I had left D.C. It was hard for me to find the motivation to go in because I was still recovering from my eye and left feeling very weak. So, for lack of a workout partner, I hired a personal trainer. My main reason for doing this really wasn't because I thought I could learn anything new; I mean C'MON, I had gotten myself in great shape before, I could do it again! My reason for hiring a trainer was because I really needed to know someone was there waiting for me at the gym, or else I just wouldn't be able to find the motivation to go. Remember, not only did all that medication effect my body greatly, it wreaked havoc on me emotionally and I was hard pressed to leave the couch on some days.
So I started with my trainer (if you're living in Guam and would like his info, please get in touch with me) two days a week, skeptical that it would work, but Oh em gee, this know it all learned quite a few somethings, mainly how to use the proper form when doing certain exercises like squats and lunges to avoid injury. And since he is a self professed "jock", a lot of the things he makes me do require some modicum of athletic ability, which I admittedly do not possess. But, he made me keep doing them and while I may not be ready for intramural sports any time soon, I increased my skill level a little bit. Which is a lot in my books. Side note: he asked me to throw a really heavy medicine ball with one arm once while rising from a squat and actually laughed out loud at my attempt. But that's OK, I agree, it was totally funny. I have weak wrists! I'm a delicate flower, what can I say?!?! But that's also one of my favorite things about my trainer, we have fun. There's a lot of joking around WHILE working out. Because if I can't be ig'nant, then I just can't BE.
So over the course of the last few months I managed (with the help of my trainer )and living by the rules of The Paleo Diet about 75% of the time, to lose thirteen of those extra pounds I so effortlessly gained in between D.C. and toxoplasmosis. Things were going really well and I had an established weekly routine, and then my trainer announced that he would have to leave for a couple of months. GASP! What would I do now?!?! Working out by myself, while certainly a viable option, just wasn't my favorite option. You see, Jillians do best in the company of others. We(I) need people to thrive and survive. Working out for two hours in silence was a very bleak option and this flower could begin to feel herself wilting. (WOW! A metaphor AND referring to myself in third person! Is that some kind of strange literary record? One can only dream.) So, admittedly I was determined to continue on my journey toward the best me, but I was also discouraged. It seemed like every time I had made any real progress, I had some sort of set back. So I did what I usually do. I prayed. I asked God to fill the gaps where I needed support. I told Him in no uncertain terms that I could not, would not, should not have to do this alone and to please, right away send me some one.
And that's where the awesome fitness minded ladies of Guam come in. When I first got here I had to attend a childcare meeting on base. At that time I knew very little people and hadn't made many friends. But in this meeting I saw a super stylish and adorable lady who I decided was going to be my friend. No one that cute could slip past my clutches! Her name was(is) Becky and after the meeting was over I practically assaulted her and asked for her number informing her that I claimed her as my new friend. The fact that I didn't scare her away right there speaks volumes about her personal fortitude. The day after my trainer left, Becky called me and asked me to come to their running club. And then to run this race, and run that race, and do this triathlon. And on top of all of that, she introduced me to some other amazing ladies who are fun! cute! and just as determined as Becky to make fitness fun and challenging. No, I did not compete in the triathlon (this time) but during that first run, I ran further than I ever have on a continuous basis in my entire life! Yay! And OW! New shoes were in order after that.
I mean, SERIOUSLY, whoever can run 10 miles (JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT!) at 'O Dark Thirty and then pose like a Charlie's Angel is more than OK in my book.
Around that very same time, Johanna (D.C. Johanna, my Happy Drill Sergeant Johanna!) asked some of her Facebook friends to join in on a challenge that she was coaching. I wasn't quite sure what it was, but I knew if she was going to be a part of it, then I wanted in! She told me that she was promoting these protein shakes called Shakeology and that the challenge group would replace one meal of the day with a shake and take Bodypump classes three times a week (along with whatever else we normally did to work out). As much as I trusted Johanna, I didn't want to jump blindly into something I hadn't researched so I began googling. I could not find one single negative review of Shakeology. It seemed everyone had something wonderful to say about the taste and the health benefits. So I joined the challenge. My shakes won't arrive until tomorrow but I have already lost 1.5 pounds (OVERNIGHT) following the low carb/Paleo plan again.
Part of the Shakeology Challenge* (which is distributed by Beach Body, the people who brought you P90X and Insanity) is that you have to take pictures of yourself in a bathing suit "before"and "after". I figured that since I'm making it public that I'm doing this, I should also let you watch my physical progress so that it may inspire others too. Jeremy quickly put the ixnay on me posting photos of me in a bikini ( I was all: OH PLEASE! You're acting like there are creepy people trolling the internet! PSHAW!). So you're just going to have to settle for me in workout clothes...believe me, your eyes thank you for not having to see my thighs in all their corpulent glory.
Before I do this, I would like to note that me and myself had a wee going away party (more like a wild frat party with call girls made out of pizza) for all of the foods and drinks (goodbye wine! I shall miss thee!) I will be forgoing for the next thirty days. I pretty much made myself sick. I was so bloated I couldn't take my rings off and along with a major food baby, I developed "pregnant face" overnight. SALT, you delicious devil, you!
Without further ado, your "before" photos:
Food baby, 'bout three days gestation. Congratulations! It's aaaaaaa: PIZZA AND A SIX PACK of CORONA!
So there's that, Internet. Hope you aren't scarred for life. I'll update you periodically on my progress and let you know how the shakes are and I will also post the "after" photos after the challenge is over. Good lord, pray for me!
I said all of that to really say this: If I can make these changes in my life, then ANYONE can. And I mean that. I'm poking fun at myself and baring my weathered soul to you in the the hopes (as usual) that maybe, just maybe, there is someone reading this that doesn't know where to start, or feels like there is no hope. Listen. Listen to me. There is ALWAYS hope. You can ALWAYS be a better you. This has been a very long uphill battle for me. On the way I've had to continuously fight my own personal demons and my own body turned against itself several times making me very sick. But one constant remained: No matter how far I fell backward, or how low I felt, I always managed to find a way to keep going. Little by little. And you can too. Don't look at the big picture, look at the little one. Today. Sometimes, one hill at a time is easier to climb than the whole mountain. But if you keep going, one day you will turn around, after climbing all those little hills and see that you have in fact climbed that mountain.
*If you are interested in purchasing Shakeology, you can do so through Johanna on the Beachbody website.