Body Image and Me

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14 years ago I started on a health and wellness journey that I am just now really coming to understand and embrace. I had open gastric bypass surgery (simply, a small pouch was created from my stomach which was then connected directly to my small intestine.) The surgery was done because of a number of health issues that were preventing me from losing weight with diet and exercise and were starting to create a number of other health issues. During the 6 months that followed I lost 100 lbs. My surgeons were pleased with my progress and said my body would level itself out in terms of where I would net out weight wise. And it did. There were (and are) certain restrictions on what I can eat/drink, and really not so much that I can’t have them but more that I will just feel really, really crappy afterwards (think flu like symptoms). So I don’t drink alcohol, I stay away from things high in fat (so total opposite of Gavin), things my pouch has trouble breaking down (i.e. celery, certain types of lettuce, bread, even steak can be problematic) and things high in sugar (i.e. candy, most desserts, soda, certain yogurts, granola bars, etc.) But I didn’t let those restrictions define my life. I still bake like crazy (normal, full sugar foods – in addition to low-sugar), and cook things that while I know I’ll have trouble with, the rest of my family loves (i.e. chicken wings, sausage and peppers, pizza). I eat 5 much smaller meals a day and can’t eat/drink at the same time (there needs to be a window of 45 mins between the two) but this is the life I chose by having the surgery.

I am an emotional/stress eater. Surgery couldn’t change that, it’s just the way my brain is wired. Surgery didn’t change the way I looked at myself either. All it did was make me look different to those around me and improve pretty much all the health issues I was having at the time (so bonus on that!) But I was still incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin. Nothing my husband or others would say about how I looked in a new dress or top could change that. It’s not that I didn’t believe them, I just couldn’t see what they saw.

Two pregnancies and three kids later didn’t change anything either (ok so that’s not exactly true – moms out there you know what I mean!) Over the years I’ve tried to continue to eat healthy, small meals and exercise when I could but other things got in the way – daycare/pre-k functions, the kids activities, school events, family functions, errands, work, my own energy levels. But the reality is these are all really convenient excuses.  As all parents can attest too, the early years of raising kids can be the hardest – especially from a nutrition perspective. You never have time to eat a full hot (HAHA) meal and instead eat whatever your kids left on the plate. Grabbing food on the go and giving little thought to what you’re eating (just the fact that you ARE eating is a big deal). But the problem was I was becoming more uncomfortable in my own skin and now I have a 7 year old daughter watching.

So six weeks ago I started a new fitness program. The program has been intense, six workouts a week, 20 seriously intense minutes a day (with another quick 10 min mini workout tacked on). This program wasn’t just about the workouts – it also included better nutrition. It took me back to a similar workout program I did a few years ago that was really focused on portion control, finding triggers, healthy alternatives, etc. So I revamped the nutritional piece and kick started my journey.

When I started this program I thought long and hard about my goals, my reasons for starting this journey. For the first time ever eating better and losing weight were a small part of my reasons for doing this. I rarely do anything for me – even my “self care” has roots in doing it when it will least impact everyone else’s schedule. But this journey was about two people. The biggest focus was that I needed this to be about me, for me . The second person this is about is my daughter. Not only do I want her to be comfortable and confident in her skin, but I want her to see me that way too. I want her to have a healthy relationship with food and fitness.

So has it been hard? Yes. Have there been struggles along the way (hello flu season)? Yes. Has everyday life, errands and chores tried to get in the way? Hell YES! Were there times I wanted to quit for any number of reasons? Yes. The truth is the struggle is real. It’s hard putting yourself first after so many years of being last on the “taking care of” list. One workout skipped becomes two workouts skipped – legit reasons for it? Maybe, maybe not. But skipping workouts with the “intention” to do them later is a slippery slope. And that “ONE” cookie can be the “gateway drug” for someone who is an emotional eater. So I schedule my workouts like everything else in my day and once done I get to cross that bad boy off my list. I make healthy treats or find alternatives to something I’m craving (i.e. chocolate or just something sweet – my typical go to is strawberries or red grapes). I still bake/cook as that’s a stress reliever for me (ironically) but that way my daughter sees the entire relationship between me and fitness and me and eating.

The fact that I started this program six weeks ago – and stuck with it – is a big deal for many reasons. From what my daughter sees to the fact that I didn’t quit to the fact that I put me first – for 20 mins a day.  Look, six weeks would have gone by whether I started on this journey or not but now I feel as if I’ve achieved so much more than losing 11 lbs. I left the excuses behind and am working on all the rest because I’m worth the effort.

Health and wellness aren’t about weight loss, although that’s a nice by-product. Health and wellness are about being comfortable and confident in your own skin and that has become my ultimate goal.

If you’re interested in following (or even joining) my fitness journey or want a workout accountability buddy, follow me on Instagram at @katelynchanderson.

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