Sunday, May 6, 2012

How I Changed My Life by Adopting a Healthy and Active Lifestyle

Vicki VanArsdale
Freelance writer, artist and 
codirector, fitness walker leader for the
Galloway Marathon Training Program  
Even though my Mom made home-cooked, well-balanced and healthy meals, I was overweight. Maybe it was all of the junk food and pre-packaged snacks I ate, or all of the sugary juices and sodas I drank. I remember being called out of my 4th grade class to go to a special seminar with the school nurse. It was for fat kids. In high school I hated gym class and conveniently “forgot” my bra on more than one occasion.  I preferred chorus and writing to anything physical. 

I’m an emotional eater, and after I graduated high school I was depressed and used food for comfort.  Before I knew it I hovered between 235 and 250 lbs.  I wore the same clothes often because nothing else fit, and I was too embarrassed to find something new to wear.  I was unhappy and unhealthy. Finally, after I transferred to a 4-year college to get my Bachelor’s Degree I lost some weight and wore a normal size. I exercised and walked a lot, but I didn’t eat healthy. A few years after college I was depressed again and the weight came back on, quickly. At age 28 I suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and had to have a colonoscopy. I started taking antidepressants. At my largest I wore a size 24 pants and 3X pajamas. That was my breaking point. I had had enough. I couldn’t live like that any more. 

I started walking and going to a gym. It took me a while to figure out what I was doing, but I kept going. I started cutting back on sugary, pre-made foods and stopped drinking soda. I started eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more water. I walked a 5k and, at the time, it was the hardest thing I had ever done. I read everything I could about health, wellness and nutrition. I realized food holds the key to health and wellness, and if we aren’t moving toward health we’re moving toward disease and illness. 

As I gained confidence and self esteem I tried different things at the gym and took a few classes. I swapped full-fat dairy products for low-fat cheese and plain, nonfat Greek yogurt. I started drinking soy milk – chocolate at first, then vanilla – and finally I’m at a place where I prefer plain, unsweetened soy milk and almond milk. I rarely eat white bread, flour, sugar or potatoes. I may have a soda or a donut once a year. Foods that I used to eat now disgust me. I can’t even believe I ate that crap – fake foods with no nutritional value. Now it’s all about eating clean.

My body is my temple, and I honor it with lots of fruits and veggies, kale and apple smoothies, little or no meat, some seafood, almost no dairy, lots of whole grains and eggs.  (If I eat a whole egg I add a few egg whites to it.) My staples are oatmeal, Ezekiel Bread, lentils, quinoa, brown rice, fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, nut butters, beans and legumes. I drink water, red wine, coffee and plant-based milks. I’m a chocoholic and I satisfy my daily need for chocolate with unsweetened cocoa powder or 85% dark chocolate. 

I’m far from perfect though. I’ll always be an emotional eater, and I face challenges with that daily. I go on vacation and eat dessert - every night!  I get in a slump and don’t exercise as much as I should, or life just gets in the way.  But when I slack off for too long my body lets me know it’s time to get back on track.

As for my exercise routine, I love spinning, walking, weight training and anything outdoors.  The girl who hated gym class has completed 5 marathons, 3 half marathons and some shorter races.  I’m training for my first 10k trail race in June. I’m really slow but so what. I’m out there having fun and getting fit. People pass me but that’s ok. They don’t know the journey I’m on. 

Five years ago I joined the Metro DC Galloway Marathon Training Program, which trains with the run-walk method. I was a pace group leader for the 14-minute mile group for a while, and now I co-direct the entire program and lead the fitness walkers. I’m also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. I love inspiring people and helping them to reach their goals.  

I’m living proof that small changes over time can lead to big results. If I can do it so can you!

Thanks Vicki for sharing your story. What a wonderful inspiration you are!

By Vicki VanArsdale
Freelance Writer and Artist

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